Nicky Aiken, MP for the Cities of London and Westminster launched the Fertility Workplace Pledge in November and has already gained the support of several large UK employers.
What are the aims of the pledge?
The Fertility Workplace Pledge aims to change attitudes towards fertility treatment in the UK, and support those undertaking it. According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, some 60,000 people undertake fertility treatment each year.
Employers that sign the pledge commit to taking four steps:
- to recognise the impact of fertility issues, to create an open culture free from stigma and to provide an accessible workplace fertility policy;
- to establish the role of a fertility ambassador to raise awareness and promote and encourage the use of available support;
- to provide family friendly support that is inclusive of those who are trying to build a family and to ensure that line managers understand the realities of fertility treatment and how they can support colleagues through the physical, mental and financial impact; and
- to provide staff with the right to request flexible working and reasonable working adjustments so they can attend appointments and cope with the physical impact of treatment. (Ms Aiken is also the MP behind the Fertility Treatment (Employment Rights) Bill, a Private Members’ Bill that aims to provide statutory time off for employees going through fertility treatment).
Why it’s important to develop a fertility policy
According to a report from Fertility Network UK, published at the end of October infertility and the demands of fertility treatment pose a significant challenge to the people affected, including in their working lives.
- 58% of survey participants felt concerned that treatment would affect their career prospects (8% more than in a 2016 survey);
- 36% felt their career was damaged as a result of treatment;
- 15% either reduced their hours or left their job;
- 77% disclosed to their employer but only 47% of these said that reasonable adjustments were made;
- only 45% felt they received really good support from their employer; and
- only 25% reported the existence of supportive workplace policy (and 19% were not sure whether there was policy).
A good fertility policy will reduce the stigma associated with fertility treatment, create a more supportive and inclusive environment for those dealing with fertility issues, set out arrangements for employees to take time off and to receive pay while undergoing fertility treatment, and cover the options available in respect of failed treatment cycles.
If you are interested in developing a policy for your own workplace, please speak to a member of the employment team.
For further information, please contact:
Meriel Schindler, Partner, Withersworldwide