There is a strong, but often overlooked, link between employment and fertility treatment. These days, many women choose to sacrifice their most fertile years in order to get ahead on the career ladder. And often, women delay starting a family until their early forties.
The sad truth is, however, that while plenty of women are lucky enough to be able to conceive without help after 40, female fertility does drop off sharply after the age of 35. This means that more and more women in the workplace are having to seek fertility treatment. But many are reluctant to speak to their employer about it.
A conspiracy of silence?
A large proportion of female employees undergo some form of fertility treatment. In fact, around one in six couples, which equates to a lot of working women. But many employers are often left in the dark about the subject.
According to Fertility Network UK, 50% of women undergoing treatment opted not to tell their boss. So why are women so reluctant to speak to the people they work for about their fertility issues?
One major reason for keeping it secret, is that infertility is an intensely private matter. We might discuss this with our nearest and dearest, but it’s certainly not fodder for office gossip.
Treatment for infertility can have a major impact on your work though, so keeping your boss informed seems sensible, even if you don’t want the whole office to know.
The problem is that whilst most businesses now have packages and benefits to cover maternity leave and pregnancy, very little support is available to those undergoing fertility treatment.
There’s also the emotional rollercoaster to consider. Whilst pregnancy has a huge impact on women both physically and psychologically, the emotional toll of repeated rounds of fertility treatment should not be underestimated.
Why should employers support women through fertility treatment?
It might not seem like there’s much benefit to the employer in helping a woman through all of this, but in fact the advantages to the company can be major. If you know one of your employees is undergoing fertility treatment, you can work with her to plan ahead.
Some women prefer to take on a less taxing role during this process, perhaps dropping their hours to allow for appointments and recovery. Others might decide to push through and distract themselves with greater challenges now, with the aim of slowing down a bit during and after pregnancy.
If employers work with their employees at times like this, then the company gets to retain talent that might otherwise drift away from a lack of support.
If you are, or are considering undergoing fertility treatment, but are unsure of your company’s policy on the matter, it might be worth setting up a confidential meeting with HR to find out what your options are.