Providing Sufficient Support for Infertility in the Workplace

When facing a challenging personal or medical issue, it’s likely to affect a person’s life outside their… well, personal life; adequate support and accommodation is essential, and some days, it can feel somewhat impossible just to do the basics.

1 in 6 individuals struggle with infertility – a 100% increase since the 1980s. From this number, up to 93% of women said that their career had been impacted in some way by their struggles to conceive and bring home a baby.

Almost 70% take sick leave from work, but many also report mental health struggles such as anxiety, stress, and depression. Tack on feeling guilty for needing to take time for various appointments, fears about what others might think about their commitment to their job, all while potentially even hiding treatment from employers in fear that they won’t be supported – the entire ordeal has the potential to significantly impact mental and emotional wellbeing, ultimately impacting their performance, confidence, and concentration at work. 

You might be asking yourself, in its most recognized and acknowledged part of history, why is fertility treatment is still shrouded in secrecy, and by extension, met with ignorance and apathy from those who have never dealt with it up close?

This is a stigma that Erin Fordham, Co-Founder of Oasis Fertility Support Network, is working hard to dismantle, and more importantly, the people she is looking to help provide that adequate support for. “Complex fertility journeys are uncertain, isolating, and will inevitably involve varying levels of stress for each experiencing individual,” she says. “It’s important that employers do what they can to remove the workplace burden by recognizing it as a legitimate life-event and medical need.”

Business owners can support their employees by fostering an environment where legitimate medical needs no longer have to be considered “taboo”. By bringing awareness and opening the floor to real conversations about an experience that nearly 20% of people will encounter, they begin to make work a steadier place to be.

Prof. Sarah Kaplan, Director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, said more companies are offering fertility benefits as a way to attract and retain a diverse talent pool, including LGBTQ employees who need those services in order to have a family.

“People are also choosing to have their families later. They want to invest in their careers, and they want to build those skills and move up in organizations, which is what organizations should want — to help support their employees in achieving their career goals as well as their family goals. This goes part and parcel with creating policies that would be more supportive of caregiving responsibilities at home.”

Providing appropriate benefits, offering flexibility around appointments, ensuring managers are given appropriate training and guidance about available resources, offering emotional support, and empowering employees to continue to feel valued and supported through issues like infertility cultivates a more inclusive workplace, ultimately contributing to workplace satisfaction, and a better quality of life.

By empowering and enabling individuals experiencing medical issues like infertility to feel secure in their careers, business owners can feel more confident that their employees are showing up to work at their best, and more importantly, feeling a little more like their best, too.

For more information about infertility support, visit Oasis Fertility Support Network’s website, and check out their new podcast.