Protection  

Insurer urges corporates to support staff during IVF

Insurer urges corporates to support staff during IVF
Photo: Derek Finch via Pexels

Insurer Zurich has joined forces with organisations pushing for better protections in law for employees going through fertility treatment. 

As the company published research showing the effect of fertility treatment on employees, especially women, the insurer also urged corporates to implement better workplace practices to support staff going through IVF. 

Zurich said it was supporting Fertility Matters at Work in its conversations with MP Nickie Aiken, pushing for a much-needed change in employment legislation to protect the rights of those undergoing fertility treatment

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Steve Collinson, chief HR officer for Zurich UK, said while enshrining IVF leave as a right for all women would not solve the whole problem, it would be a "huge step towards ensuring that IVF is better understood and more sensitively handled in the workplace."

Natalie Silverman, co-founder of Fertility Matters at Work, said: “Our aim is that along with better awareness of the issue, there is better internal support and signposting."

But it also warned that women are still too afraid, generally, to tell their employer about their fertility treatment, despite more than 50,000 UK women undergoing treatment annually.

Research carried out among 250 women by Zurich as part of its collaboration with Fertility Matters at Work, discovered almost a third (32 per cent) of women believed that disclosing their IVF status would put their job at risk.

More than a quarter (26 per cent) felt their commitment to the job would be questioned.

As previously reported by FTAdviser and in the FT, undergoing fertility treatment necessitates courses of injections that must be taken at the same time each day, often weekly meetings with a consultant which might eat into working hours, and serious side-effects of fertility drugs that can affect a woman's wellbeing.

The study also found that one in five women said the most difficult aspect of balancing IVF treatment with work was being forced to take annual leave for appointments.

This has led to 12 per cent of women undergoing IVF quitting their careers due to a lack of support from their employer, with 13 per cent taking on lower-paid roles.

Rank 

Reason for not disclosing IVF treatment to employer 

Percentage 

I was worried it might put my job at risk 

32% 

I was worried I would be judged as less committed to my job 

26% 

=3 

I didn't want my company knowing about my plans to have a baby in case it impacted my career progression / I was worried it would leak to colleagues / IVF is a private matter

23% 

Although most did not feel able to, the few women who did tell their employers about their IVF treatment saw significant benefits.

The vast majority of these (64 per cent) said discussing IVF with managers or employers made their overall IVF experience easier or much easier to deal with. 

Silverman added: "We work with organisations to ensure there is a more consistent approach from line managers as they have been trained to understand what a person needs and feel confident in how best to support them.

"When we consider just how much of our time we spend at work, we want it to be a psychologically safe space. One that addresses this significant life event that a person might have to go through.”