Now is the time for UK employers to review their fertility policies

The UK has just seen a recent change to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. Now sperm, eggs and embryos can be stored up to a maximum of 55 years. This policy change will provide equity to all fertility patients, regardless of medical need. It gives the public greater choice in making life-changing decisions as to when to have a child.

This change now impacts employers, as employees consider and implement the new options that this legislation provides. And this may be sooner rather than later in the coming decade. According to a recent survey, 84% of young women believe egg freezing is justifiable to improve opportunities for career progression. 37% believe that it should be a corporate benefit.

Employer support for family building

Now, human resources specialists are calling for employers to recognise that the legislative change should act as a spur for reviewing employee fertility policies. They point out that more prospective parents within the workplace will now have questions about fertility treatment and egg freezing. They will want to know how their employers intend to support them as they build their families in future years.

Fertility Medical and nursing specialists have also weighed in. Francesca Steyn, Director of Fertility Services at Peppy, a digital health and wellness platform and current chair of the Royal College of Nursing Fertility Nurses Forum, said, “Employers can best help those employees considering or going through egg-freezing by empowering them with the right information and support at all stages of their fertility journey. This starts by having an inclusive fertility policy in place alongside comprehensive fertility support. Employers are likely to see an increase in the number of people having fertility treatment. Therefore, needing time off for appointments and for treatment cycles, there is going to be much more of a need for fertility support for the entire workforce, not only because it is the right thing for employers to offer but also to ensure equality for all staff.”

All employees should have access to support

However, Ms. Steyn believes that any new fertility policy must be inclusive, in that fertility support and information should not only be applied to people going through egg-freezing as a prelude to IVF but should also be readily available for ALL employees who are considering options for their future family plans. She concluded, “This incredibly sensitive topic is one that all employers are going to need to prepare for. The right support means that staff will feel more comfortable and supported by work throughout their fertility journey and employers will be better able to retain those employees who are preparing to become parents.”