The desire to be a parent can be all encompassing, writes Charlotte Gentry, so line managers and senior leadership teams need to take this into account.

No one can quite prepare you for what it is like to become a parent. We all know it is a huge change and one of the biggest steps in life, but it is also one of the most rewarding experiences in the world.

And it took me 45 years of life experience and six rounds of IVF treatment to get there myself.

Together with one in seven couples in the UK, my husband and I struggled to conceive, turning to IVF to help us reach our goals of becoming parents.

For those who cannot conceive naturally, IVF can quite literally deliver miracles. Yet when it fails, it can bring with it crushing lows and colossal disappointment. My fertility journey was long and challenging, full of heart-breaking ups and downs, turbulent emotions and physical exhaustion.

But in April 2020 I was blessed to give birth to my son, Archie. I count myself one of the lucky ones.

Fertility issues affect men and women

An estimated 55,000 patients undergo IVF treatment each year in the UK, within an increasingly unequal fertility sector. The postcode lottery for NHS fertility treatments, alongside the steep costs of private healthcare, makes matters worse.

Many men and women cannot access medical treatments due to affordability, their location, or if they’re single or in the LGBTQ community. These issues have been further exacerbated during the pandemic, with delays to IVF treatment predicted to reduce the number of live births in women over 40 by almost a quarter.

Regrettably, fertility issues are still overlooked and neglected by most UK businesses. While not everyone trying for a baby will struggle to conceive, for those going through fertility issues it remains a workplace taboo.

In fact, almost half (48%) of employers have no official policy in place to support staff undergoing IVF treatment, nor have plans to do so in the near future. In fact, a mere 20% of UK employees are offered paid leave for fertility treatment, and even fewer have access to flexible working options to fit in appointments and recovery time.

Employees need support through the process

With more than 3.5 million people in the UK affected by fertility issues, this is deeply concerning. As a CEO myself, I truly understand the desperate need to prioritise the issue and support employees undergoing fertility treatment.

There needs to be a mindset shift in businesses: fertility care in the workplace should be considered a medical need, rather than a lifestyle choice. But as it stands, most workplace employee protection policies exclude ‘elective’ medical processes, putting fertility treatment on a par with cosmetic surgery.

Some firms have responded to these issues by pledging to introduce fertility packages to cover the costs of treatment. These gestures are very welcome and certainly shouldn’t be underestimated in terms of the financial lifeline they provide to those struggling to have a baby. Employers must also not forget that IVF is as much an emotional journey, as it is a financial one, so corporate benefit solutions must also include emotional provisions for staff, as well as flexibility in working hours and leave.

Companies that introduce these sort of fertility benefits packages and support systems will help to reduce the burden on women and couples undergoing the treatment. For too long, women have been hesitant to reveal their fertility struggles with their employer, for fear of it impacting their career progression. In dealing with the stressful highs and lows in private, many women struggle with their mental wellbeing and work productivity yet battle with how to explain this to their employers. I can testify to this from my own first-hand experience.


The desire to be a mother can be all encompassing, so line managers and senior leadership teams need to take this into account.

If employers don’t act on this fast and make changes, they risk losing employees to their more progressive competitors. The rise of ‘The Great Resignation’ that has been prompted by the pandemic means that if companies aren’t willing to introduce the benefits that staff are feeling more empowered than ever to demand, workers will not hesitate to move on.

If companies want to compete in hiring and retaining great talent, their benefit scheme needs to be inclusive and cover everyone’s needs. Fertility treatment should be recognised as a vital component of this, and all the more necessary amid increasing fertility pressures and longer waiting lists post-pandemic.



Charlotte Gentry is the founder of The IVF Network