Letter to Business Owners re Fertility
Letter to Business Owners re Fertility
Jack Gardener

7 December 2022

There are likely to be a lot of pressures on you at the moment: market uncertainty, inflation and recruitment to name but a few. I appreciate that, if I say you need to think about fertility, you are likely to think that I am a barking up the wrong tree and wasting your time.

My view is that I am not. By introducing a fertility policy into your business, I believe you can improve:

• Recruitment;
• Retention;
• Planning;
• Productivity; and
• Culture.

Fertility, or rather infertility, is an issue which is increasing. It is here to stay. For example:

• at least 1 in 6 couples need medical help to achieve a pregnancy;
• approximately 40% of infertility is down to female issues, 40% to male issues and 20% to male/female combined issues; and
• a woman at age 30 has only a 20% chance of conceiving in any given month.

The introduction of fertility policies is often seen as something which belongs to the big corporates. It should not. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) employ over 60% of the workforce in the UK. The issue of fertility affects us too.

In fact, I would argue it affects us even more than big corporates. If a person or their partner is going through this incredibly stressful time, they are less likely to be focused on their work meaning their output could reduce. If you are a large corporate with over 1,000 people, one person who is off their game does not have a great effect on the bottom line. If you only have 10 employees and someone is struggling to concentrate, the impact is much greater.

A fertility policy does not have to be expensive. Very small changes can make a big difference and will have little to no cost to your business. For example:

a. providing a room where a person can administer injections when going through the therapy;
b. allowing people to start late whilst they are going through the treatment so they can attend appointments;
c. providing links to guidance and support groups; and
d. being available, or finding someone who can be available to speak, to those going through fertility treatments and provide support where possible.

As a firm, we went further than this and introduced a policy which provides:

a. an interest free loan of up to £5,000 to help fund fertility treatment; and
b. additional paid time off to attend appointments.

Neither of these things are particularly costly as the loan will be repaid and the time off is likely to be made up. The employee will have to attend the appointments whether or not you give them the time off meaning that they either take their holiday or try to fit it around their working day which is inherently stressful for them.

So how does the introduction of a fertility policy help those five points I mentioned earlier:

1. Retention

Fertility treatment is stressful. Our culture stops us talking openly about it. If someone is going through treatment, they may feel isolated and events might occur (such as an office baby shower) which could make them feel marginalised. If someone starts to feel that way, they may start looking for other roles.

By creating a space where the employee can feel comfortable discussing their difficulties, a deeper bond will be created between them and you which will make it less likely that they will leave.

By offering a loan, you are tying someone in with a financial commitment which they will need to pay back over a period of time.

If you provide time off to attend appointments as well as providing flexibility in terms of working patterns during treatment, a hopeful parent is less likely to need to stop working to go through the treatment.

If you are aware of when treatments are taking place, especially implantation, you can manage workload for them.

If treatments are not successful, you can be there to provide support.

All of this is more likely to result in the mother or partner remaining with you in the short and long term.

2. Recruitment

Fertility policies are new. They help you stand out from amongst the crowd. Even those who are not likely to want to use the policy may be attracted to your business because of the policy. You will be seen as forward thinking and caring.

Recruiters tell us that our policy opens doors. It is also mentioned in interviews, on a regular basis, as a reason why people want to come to work for us. Yet take up is always likely to be relatively low as a proportion of your work population as a whole so in terms of cost, it does not add much of a burden.

3. Planning

Finding good people to cover work whilst people are on maternity and shared parental leave, can be difficult. We often find that prolonged absence with limited warning makes it hard to properly plan for a person’s absence from the business. By knowing that a person or their partner is going through fertility treatment, you can have conversations with them at an early stage as to what cover might be required if they are lucky enough to get pregnant. I don’t recommend putting in to place any formal plans as there is no guarantee of the fertility treatment being successful.

You are also likely to be aware as to whether the treatment has been successful and, if it has, it allows you to support the expectant mother through the early stages of pregnancy which can be very tough.

4. Productivity

If an expectant parent is worrying about the treatment they or their partner are going through, working out how to take time off without being noticed and generally feeling stressed, they are not going to be a productive member of your team. By opening up the conversation, and providing flexibility, you will hopefully allow them to take the time to focus on the treatment when they need to and then focus on work. This will increase that individual’s productivity which will help your bottom line.

5. Culture

We have found that this policy has improved our culture and shows that management think beyond the bottom line of the business.

A question I am asked is “how many people have taken up the policy?”. In my mind, this is not actually that important. By having the policy in place, we have created a culture where it is okay to discuss issues such as fertility, miscarriage and menopause. It has increased the atmosphere of a friendly, family workplace. It has earmarked us as a supportive employer and to new recruits it signposts how flexible we are prepared to be around childcare and other work/life balance arrangements. People feel valued and able to discuss a range of topics.

You may have seen that a private members bill has been introduced in Parliament which would give a statutory right for time off to attend fertility appointments. In my view, this shows that change is coming and as a business owner you can either be ahead of the curve and use it to your advantage or be dragged along in the future.

The impact of introducing this policy at Phillips Law has been incredibly positive and I would urge you to consider what you can do to help your business as well as your employees.

Please do get in touch if you would like more information.

Yours sincerely

Jack Gardener
Phillips Law

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