Families come in all shapes and sizes and employers need to avoid making assumptions about who among their workforce might be trying for a baby, writes Francesca Steyn.
Fertility treatment is an issue that affects far more people than employers may realise.
In the past five years, the number of same-sex families has grown by over 50 percent. 63 percent of LGBTQ+ Millennials aged 18-35 are considering expanding their families by becoming parents for the first time, or by having more children. And many employers may, of course, have staff among them.
Yet support for your LGBTQ+ staff, for whom the fertility journey is a complex one, is not always readily available.
In fact, LGBTQ+ staff have a much higher chance of needing support when starting or growing a family. As conception often involves fertility treatments as well as donor sperm, donor eggs or surrogacy, it’s a huge journey in terms of mental and physical challenges. It’s also tricky to find the right information.
Inequalities for LGBT+ funding
There are huge inequalities over funding as most of the LGBT+ community doesn’t qualify for NHS funding for IVF. What’s more, finding a surrogate in the UK might take up to 2 years, and finding an egg donor can take between 6 months to a year, with all the financial implications and stress involved.
Standard IVF treatment can cost between £6,000 and £10,000 per cycle, and both adoption and surrogacy involve additional legal and financial hurdles and costs. Staff often need extra time off work to make an application to the court to become the legal parents of the child through surrogacy or to complete the adoption application process.
Fertility treatment is tough emotionally and financially
On top of this there is the fertility treatment itself which is physically gruelling, and emotionally exhausting. With anyone accessing fertility treatment and investigations, there’s a great deal of stress and worry involved in trying to conceive. 85 percent of people feel fertility treatment has a negative impact on their work, with 19 percent having to reduce hours or leave the workplace altogether.
With approximately 25 percent of pregnancies ending in a miscarriage (this includes surrogacy pregnancies through fertility treatment), it’s perhaps not surprising that 90 percent of men and women struggling with their fertility, experience feelings of depression and 42 percent feel suicidal.
With financial, legal, physical and mental health issues all impacting on LGBTQ+ staff in the process of starting or adding to their family, it’s vital for employers to offer appropriate support. And be aware that this process can take a long time and be disruptive to productivity. In fact 8.7 days is the average number of days’ absence taken per IVF cycle.
Supportive employers have more engaged staff
Employers who are supportive will find it has a very positive impact on engagement. In fact, 96 percent of employees said they would feel more positive about their employer if they were offered specialist fertility support, following a pilot of Peppy Fertility support.
Finding employers who will support their family plans has become a priority for companies’ potential staff. 72 percent of employees say they’re more likely to accept a job at a company that’s supportive of LGBTQ+ employees.
Employers need to have inclusive policies
Employers need to make sure their policies and work environment are inclusive, and that they’re signposting the organisations that can help.
It’s important that people are supported on the fertility journey and the information gap is filled once they’re outside of the clinic. And these policies need to be backed up with company culture. If staff are scared to use them for fear of being seen as less devoted to their job, they are rendered meaningless.
Francesca Steyn is the director of fertility services at Peppy