How to talk to your employees about (in)fertility

Published: 27/10/2022

The dificaulties employees have with fertility In the workplace can be severe, better understanding infertility struggles will help to better support the workforce.

On average, 1 in 6 couples are affected by infertility. Undergoing fertility treatment and investigations can be mentally and physically draining. The fertility journey is intense, expensive, and offers no real guarantee of success. And for some people, the fertility journey goes on for years.

There is currently no legal right for employees to take time off for pre-conception appointments. So how can you as an employer support an employee who may be undergoing fertility treatment?

Talking to employees about fertility treatment

Current research suggests that 68% of those undergoing fertility treatment felt that their mental health was impacted and subsequently took time off work as sick leave

However, the majority of employees do not disclose fertility treatment to their employers out of shame or fear of discrimination. Hiding appointments or making excuses can be mentally draining. 

You can support your employees by creating an environment that supports an open-door policy. In doing this, employees may feel encouraged to disclose that they are undergoing treatment/investigations. 

When your employee does disclose that they are having fertility treatment/investigations these are a few suggestions for how you might support them. 

Be present in listening

Some employees may not want to talk about fertility, but some do. Let them know you are available if they want to talk. 

Be available

As an employer you can ask what would be helpful, or what support they need in the workplace. Offering flexibility in annual leave or time off, or even starting and finishing hours can go a long way. 

Be mindful

Offer to refer them to occupational health for further support. Make your staff members aware of a company support system in place, if you have one. 

Be kind

Ask questions as a way to show interest and support. But respect privacy and confidentiality in the workplace if they prefer. Here are some phrases that can get you started:

  • ‘Do you want to talk about it?’
  • ‘I wish I knew what to say to comfort you’
  • ‘I am here to listen whenever you need me’
  • ‘I am sorry to hear that’
  • ‘What can I do to help?’

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