The NHS define infertility as the inability to conceive. There are more than 1 million cases of fertility issues per year in the UK and around 84% of couples will be able to conceive naturally within a year.
With infertility being such a common issue, the likelihood that one of your employees will have fertility problems at some point is high. So, knowing how you can support them is important. Here are some considerations that you can make so that your employees feel supported.
All experiences are valid
Something to remember is that no matter how many children someone may have, having fertility problems is hard. Although the feelings of someone with no kids will differ from those with some kids, all experiences are hard and must be treated as so.
Knowing how to help support your employees can be confusing but there is a lot you can do.
First off, the conversations around an employee’s experience must be carefully managed. People have many opinions on parenting and families. It’s important that these aren’t forced onto the person struggling with infertility. This could cause upset and tension which would just add onto the stress of the employee. The first way you can ensure this is by not making any assumptions about whether or not a person can have kids, as being reminded of their fertility issues can cause lots of upset. Being at work can also be a good time for people to stop them from thinking about their problems for a little while.
Another thing that is important to keep control of is how you as a HR and People Manager can help to support your employees. Whilst not every employee will want to come to you about their fertility problems, some will, and you have the opportunity to make it easier for them by knowing what you as their employer can offer to support them. Whether this be flexibility for appointments, employee benefits that are medical related or emotional support, it can all help to make the situation easier for them.
Opinions around treatment
Thanks to medical advances, there are now treatments available for infertility. Some are trusted by doctors and others are just tricks and tips that are passed on from others. However, not all of them are valid and can end up causing more harm than good. Try and get your employees to steer away from offering advice and leaning more towards support. This will help the person feel supported and as if their problems are valid without having tonnes of unasked for and unchecked advice thrown at them.
We briefly touched on this before, but your employee benefits package can be a real support for your employees. Whilst you have to be as broad and inclusive as possible when it comes to deciding which benefits to provide, thinking about the experiences of your employees and how the benefits they are entitled to might support them in this is important.
For fertility issues, thinking about the emotional, financial and physical side of what they might be going through is a great start to supporting them. Researching the benefits available that could be useful will make sure that you are providing support but doing it in a way that is beneficial for both your employees and the business.
Going through fertility treatment can be taxing on the body and cause side effects. These can range from mild to heavy and make people feel really off. If an employee comes back to your place of work after having fertility treatment and they’re not feeling well, then making sure that they are comfortable is key. This can be making it so that they can use comfortable pillows, take breaks and be flexible with when they work. It will give them chance to deal with their fertility treatments and still be productive at work.
We hope that this article helps you to start these conversations and that it helps to make it easier for your employees and you as a HR or People Manager.
For more information check out these resources:
Risks of fertility treatment – Risks of fertility treatment | Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (hfea.gov.uk)
Resource to help create a supportive workplace – Supporting Your Employees During Their Family Building Journeys (progyny.com)