We look at how businesses in financial services support their employees through fertility issues – including a look at the firms who are leading the way with enhanced support for those undergoing fertility treatment.
Infertility is defined as when a couple cannot get pregnant (conceive), despite having regular unprotected sex. According to the World Health Organisation infertility is: ‘a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.’ According to Fertility Network UK, ‘around one in six couples in the UK will experience difficulties conceiving.’ This equates to approximately 3.5 million people across the country and around 84% of those will successfully conceive after trying for 12 months. 1
Fertility is clearly a considerable issue for many couples, and yet, much of the pain associated with infertility goes unspoken. Regarding workplace policies associated with fertility, thirty-one percent of employers have no plans to offer support, according to new research undertaken in September 2022.
Currently, employees do not have any statutory entitlement to time off to undergo fertility treatment and fertility treatment does not qualify for sick leave. This means that any time that is taken off to undergo treatment must be taken as annual leave unless the employer grants the employee special or unpaid leave. Despite this, the Equality and Human Rights Commission Code of Practice advocates for employers to treat leave requests for IVF treatment ‘sympathetically’ and recommends that employers implement procedures to allow for time off for IVF and fertility treatments. 2
By addressing the issues surrounding infertility and treatment, gender inequality can also be mitigated. As stated by WHO, ‘Although both women and men can experience infertility, women in a relationship with a man are often perceived to suffer from infertility, regardless of whether they are infertile or not.’ This assumption can take its toll on infertile couples, in particular women in heterosexual relationships, who frequently experience ‘violence, divorce, social stigma, emotional stress, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.’ 3
A gleam of hope for employment rights regarding fertility issues and treatment comes in the form of the recent Fertility Treatment Bill, ‘A Bill to require employers to allow employees to take time off from work for appointments for fertility treatment; and for connected purposes.’ Which is scheduled to undergo its Second reading on Friday, 25th November 2022. This Private Member’s Bill seeks to give employees the legal right to have time off work for appointments related to fertility treatments. The Bill is in its initial stages, yet, regardless of how it proceeds through parliament, it has managed to shine a light on the gap in employment protection for individuals looking at IVF treatment.’ 4
TSB outlined a new employee support package with policies related to pregnancy, pregnancy-related bereavement, menopause, and fertility issues. Liz Ashford, TSB’s Human Resources Director said: ‘We also want to offer our colleagues compassionate and relevant policies for when they are experiencing challenging moments in their lives. Our new policies around pregnancy loss, parental bereavement, infertility, and menopause are designed to give colleagues the support they need when it matters most.’ 5
According to head of HR at Goldman Sachs, Sally Boyle, staff were surveyed on company benefits. The feedback ‘was a ‘pathway to parenthood’ stipend: people wanted us to think about egg retrieval, donation and surrogacy and interest was particularly strong from within our affinity women’s network and from our LGBT+ network, because for same-sex partners we hadn’t covered that before.’ Boyle states that the initiative is part of the “family-friendly reinvention of banking,” adding: ‘We’re seeing a shift in the way in which our men and women are thinking about parenthood, and we were keen to ensure people had the flexibility to manage their careers and personal lives. The egg retrieval [allowance] gives people who have left children until later in life, or who are struggling with fertility, some flexibility.’
Following this, employees were granted access to the company’s fertility stipend, whereupon they can be referred to a specialist via the private medical scheme. They must pay the cost of fertility treatment upfront and are then reimbursed by the firm. This benefit is available to all staff at Goldman regardless of how long they have been at the company. 6
Online bank Monzo are leading the way in safeguarding the mental health of their employees. Announcing last year that they would be introducing additional paid leave for employees suffering from miscarriage or those that are undergoing fertility treatments, diagnosis, or consultations. Monzo offer their employees eight days of additional paid leave to employees undergoing fertility treatment, diagnosis, or consultations. Giving them time to rest after procedures, recover from the emotional effects of treatment, or attend appointments and scans.
Monzo have also set up a support group for employees experiencing fertility treatment, while additional mental health support is available for all employees trying to become parents through mental health first aid, sick leave days for mental health, an employee assistance programme, and a mental health Slack channel. 7
Peppy is a digital health app that is pioneering health support for employees, serving under-served areas of healthcare. These include family and reproductive health – trying to start a family, becoming a parent, and going through the menopause – and a first-of-its-kind men's health service.
Francesca Steyn, Director of Fertility & Women's Health Services at Peppy stated: ‘Up until recently, there has been very little support available for employers to offer people on a fertility journey but when one in six people in the UK are affected it is very much needed. Employers need to recognise that they must be on the front foot when it comes to supporting employees in this area.’
Steyn continued: ‘Employees who are affected by fertility issues can find it hard to carry on as normal. Side effects of treatment, changes in lifestyle, a reluctance or inability to socialise, fatigue and anxiety can weigh heavily on staff, as can the relentless appointments in numerous healthcare settings.’
By providing services such as Peppy, alongside policies that allow employees with additional leave to undergo treatment, employers can provide their staff with a toolkit to deal with fertility issues and subsequent treatments. 8
Fertility issues are extremely prevalent, and yet, go unspoken about. In order to support their workforce, employers must consider implementing policies that support those suffering, and those undergoing treatment, whether that is with financial aid, additional leave, or mental health support. By providing care, employers can start a conversation that can help those struggling with fertility, and in turn, mitigate gender inequality – helping to push inclusivity in the workplace. By the end of this month, the Fertility Treatment Bill will have undergone its Second Reading in Parliament, taking its next steps to hopefully being made law, thus ensuring the rights of those undergoing fertility treatment.
Digital Marketing Assistant
Barcadia Media Limited
|5th December 2022 at 12:00pm