Why You Should Have a Fertility Policy at Work

One in six people worldwide are currently experiencing fertility problems, and many are in employment. But most are reluctant to speak to their employer, because they’re worried it may have a detrimental effect on their career. It’s common for staff to end up reducing their hours or quitting their job if they’re unable to balance work and fertility issues.

The implications for recruiters are clear. In a recent survey we ran at Fertility Network UK, 83% of respondents said that fertility support or a fertility policy was very important when they considered a new job or employer. Here we take a look at how fertility can affect employees and how can you ensure they’re supported.

The impact of fertility treatment

When a couple is having difficulty conceiving, several different types of treatment are available, from medicine to surgery to assisted conception such as IVF or ICSI.  Each individual’s journey will be different, and they’ll each have different needs as a result.

Fertility treatment can be time-consuming. With IVF, for example, the average cycle is six to eight weeks and requires attending several appointments during that time. Yet there’s no legal right to time off work for fertility treatment. People often end up using their annual leave or taking unpaid leave.

There’s also the impact on a person’s mental health. Our research found that 47% of people experienced depression when going through infertility. And 86% said their productivity at work was strongly impacted by fertility challenges. On top of all this, fertility can still be a taboo subject. Some people feel ashamed or embarrassed if they can’t conceive, making it harder for them to talk about.

Infertility is recognised by the World Health Organisation as ‘a disease of the reproductive system’―so it should be handled at work in the same way as any other medical condition. Despite this, it’s not a legal requirement to have a workplace fertility policy (yet!). 19% of respondents told us they reduced their hours or resigned while going through fertility treatment. This can be a challenge for employers both operationally and financially.

What you can do to help

An understanding employer can make all the difference to a staff member. And a supportive workplace is good for business as well as for employees. Generating goodwill leads to a happier workforce―if an employee feels supported, it’s likely to improve their productivity and loyalty.

Increase your knowledge

A vital first step is to understand the complex impact of both infertility and its treatment. With the necessary information and confidence, you can enable staff going through fertility treatment feel supported and happy at work. Increase your knowledge and awareness by doing research―look at resources from organisations like Fertility Network UK and CIPD.

Establish your policy―and make sure people know about it

Having an accessible workplace fertility policy is key to creating an open culture free from stigma. It helps make sure employees feel comfortable in the workplace so that you attract and retain the best talent. Your policy should support partners as well, regardless of their gender. It’s worth remembering that men account for around half of all fertility problems.

Help is available if you need it―Fertility Network UK offers guidance with writing a workplace fertility policy. It’s free if you’re a small or medium organisation with fewer than 250 employees.

Once you have a policy in place, make sure people are aware of it. It can help to assign a Fertility Ambassador to open conversations internally and let people know what support is available.

And you can further show your commitment to supporting your employees by signing the Fertility Workplace Pledge.

Be flexible

Our research found that the average person going through an IVF cycle will need eight to 10 flexible working days for appointments, scans, egg collection and embryo transfer. Clinic appointments often overrun or have to be booked at the last minute. The process can be mentally and physically exhausting.

Wherever someone is in their fertility journey and whatever type of treatment they’re receiving, flexibility is key. Offering employees the right to request flexible working, including reasonable working adjustments, is perhaps the single most important thing you can do.

Educate and empower managers

Make sure line managers understand the realities of treatment for employees including the physical, mental and financial impact―and how they can support someone going through it.

Many managers feel overwhelmed by discussing these issues at work. But they should be reassured that they don’t have to be a medical expert or to have all the answers. What’s important is that they’re there to listen and offer support.

Most importantly, managers should:

  • create a plan together with the employee to prioritise treatment
  • be available throughout the process to check in on how things are progressing
  • understand that some people may want less involvement than others. But it’s important that there’s at least an option for regular check-ins.

Need help getting started?

Fertility Network UK offers training including one-to-one support, wellbeing sessions and general guidance for employees and employers. Again, this is free for organisations with fewer than 250 employees. This is thanks to grant funding which will expire in March 2025, so we encourage you to take advantage now. For more information, email us at [email protected]

Have a vacancy to fill? Post a job now.

Tags: equality diversity and inclusion, flexible working, HR practices, pay and benefits, staff retention, supporting your team, workplace wellbeing

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About the author

Seema Duggal

Seema Duggal is Fertility in the Workplace Development Officer at Fertility Network UK ( Following her own lived experience of infertility at work, she’s passionate about supporting others and educating companies to better understand the fertility journey women go through, and the impact it has on them and the workplace.