I was asked the other day, ‘do you need a policy for fertility in a business?’
My answer was no.
There is no requirement for a policy on fertility. Indeed, wherever I look I can’t find templates or businesses that have them. I have looked on ACAS, I have reviewed our 30 years’ worth of IP, I’ve looked on gov.uk and on various HR platforms. The examples are sparse.
Although my answer to a specific policy as a requirement was a no, my answer to whether you need to have a plan and way to support people with regards to fertility, my answer was a definite yes – and there is nothing to say that a policy couldn’t be part of this.
In recent years we have seen many changes that widen the support around important employee lifecycle events, from shared parental leave, to increased focus around menopause, to additional support around miscarriages.
Fertility has often been discussed, with some pushing for more support and specific policies to be put into place.
I am often asked what is the next ‘trend,’ what is ‘fashionable’ in HR. Firstly, it’s not about trends and fashion. It’s about what needs to change to add the right support at the right time for people. Right now, there is a ground swell around fertility.
Whether the law changes, whether the guidance changes, whether the advice changes, I think this one is a safe bet, and it’s safe to say that it will be tested through current legislation and it will be tested as the dynamics of bringing up children becomes ever more diverse.
There is no question that there is enough existing employment law to test the boundaries around this. Whether it be some form of discrimination, mental health, or a right to some reasonable time off. Think of the strain that employees may be under if everyone around them is having children. It wouldn’t be difficult to build an employment tribunal case from existing legislation.
With candidates holding most of the cards right now when it comes to employment, it could be a smart and proactive move to do something anyway. The business case to do something is very strong.
Conservative MP Nickie Aiken, has already presented her Fertility Treatment (Employment Rights) Bill – Parliamentary Bills – UK Parliament. In the bill, which has been presented to parliament, it would give individuals the right to take time off to attend appointments and proposes that employers would be required to have a workplace fertility policy. There are countries out there who are already doing this and it’s a surprise that the UK hasn’t adopted this policy/legislation earlier.
When 1 in 6 people are affected, it is always a surprise when legislation doesn’t take the lead. Without a policy in place, many companies will already be doing great things to support their employees and finding creative ways to support them. A policy, or more importantly a change in legislation, makes it mandatory and fair across the piece. Without one, and more specifically without a plan, it is likely to cause problems, leave businesses exposed and people unsupported, thereby adding significant stress and complication to an already stressful situation. There are many businesses grabbing the initiative to resolve this gap and ensuring that they are supporting those who need the extra help. It is baffling that we can have so many changes and support for anyone who actually becomes pregnant, but so little for those trying to make this their reality. If you want to be ahead of the curve, ahead of the trend, and have best practice solutions in place for supporting your people, this should form part of your policy review.
If you are looking to introduce new policies, or are seeking advice on your current policies, head over to our HR Services web page, or call us on 01491 414010. Alternatively, you can complete our form below for a call back from one of our experts.