Two-thirds (66%) of HR practitioners feel that workplace fertility support, such as flexible working or paid leave, should be considered a statutory right*, new research has found.
While fertility support may be on the radar for some HR departments, LinkedIn’s latest research revealed that just two in five (43%) employees feel supported by their line manager, while a staggering 52% said that their employer doesn’t have a fertility-related policy in place.
Despite having little or no policies in place, more than half of employees (51%) experiencing fertility struggles have needed to take time off work for medical reasons demonstrating the need for fixed policies to be in place.
Julia Bueno, UKCP Registered Psychotherapist and Counsellor, explained that infertility is a stressful time for those involved and being able to open up to workplace managers is crucial.
She added: “The tenacious taboo surrounding it compounds this and given around one in six couples will struggle to conceive, employers need to tackle this reality head on. Being able to talk about what infertility involves – in practical and emotional terms – with a manager, or colleagues, could help countless employees feel more supported.”
The research has unearthed some possible reasons for employers not actively approaching employees with fertility support. 63% of HR professionals admitted that approaching employees with fertility guidance would feel intrusive, however, nine in ten (91%) felt that struggling employees would benefit from greater education and support.
Gwenda Burns, CEO of Fertility Network UK, explained: “Struggling with fertility is something that affects millions of people in the UK and it’s vital that we continue to reduce the stigma of discussing this at work so that everyone has the best chance of getting the support they need. It’s great, therefore, to see LinkedIn raising awareness of the topic with this research and encouraging its members to share their stories with one another on the platform.
“The decision to tell your employer you are having fertility struggles is a personal and difficult one but having someone to talk to either within or outside your workplace can go a long way to easing the stress and loneliness that people in this situation often feel. We hope this campaign encourages anyone going through their own fertility journey to join the conversation, or even just to take solace from the stories being shared by others that you are not alone,” Burns added.
What are the best support mechanisms for HR to offer?
Flexible working (45%) was cited the most common method of support for employees with fertility issues. Additionally, 19% of companies are now offering egg harvesting or freezing services.
Yet, the research found that more needs to be done in this area with only 37% of organisations offering support to employees going through fertility struggles and only a quarter of organisations are offering support to same sex couples.
In order to make employees feel comfortable opening up about fertility struggles and reaching out to line managers for support, it is crucial that HR policies are put in place to facilitate this.
*Statutory rights are the minimum guaranteed rights under the law which include paid sick leave, annual leave and maternity or paternity leave.