Fertility benefits are quickly becoming one of the most powerful tools for attracting and retaining talent. To stand out from other companies, leading organizations look beyond the financial aspect of fertility by offering holistic support for the often grueling fertility process. One of the most impactful ways to support your employees pursuing fertility treatments is paid fertility leave.
What is paid fertility leave?
Fertility leave is paid time off for fertility treatments, covering the time taken for appointments, surgery, or recovery. Covered treatments can include in vitro fertilization (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), egg or sperm freezing, egg retrieval, and more.
Some companies are explicitly incorporating fertility-related clauses into their leave policies to support the thousands of people who undergo fertility treatments each year, acknowledging the challenges and hardships they may experience on their journey to parenthood. Others allow their PTO policy to cover life events like fertility treatments.
Fertility treatments are an invisible struggle
The experience of infertility can be extremely difficult, with many reporting the same levels of stress as people with heart disease or cancer. These feelings of stress, shame, and anxiety are compounded by the stigma surrounding infertility. It can be extraordinarily difficult for your employees to ask for help during such a sensitive time, especially when it comes to taking time off.
ADA, FMLA, and fertility
Because infertility deals with “major life activities,” employees are entitled to protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning you’re legally obligated to offer reasonable accommodations for their needs. These accommodations can include time off for appointments and procedures. Your employees may also be eligible for leave under FMLA or CFRA depending on where you’re located, providing them another avenue of protection. However, it’s unclear where ADA or FMLA extends to leave related to mental health care related to fertility treatments.
The case for offering paid fertility leave
Offering paid fertility leave, as opposed to unpaid, can have several positive benefits for your company, including improved employee loyalty, engagement, and retention. It may also help to improve outcomes along the family-building journey, as it gives employees the time and space to pursue the best treatments for their unique needs.
Companies like Checkr cover fertility as a part of their paid leave policy to help better support employees when they might not know how to ask for help. “Sometimes employees don’t reach out to HR to ask about this type of leave because they’re worried about how it will be received,” says Linda Shaffer, CPOO at Checkr. “We offer up to three months of paid leave for fertility treatments, including IVF, artificial insemination, and egg or sperm donation. Employees may also take unpaid leave for these treatments if they need more time.” By calling out fertility specifically in paid leave documents, HR can encourage employees to use their PTO without forcing them to share their reasoning.
At Maven, fertility leave is built into a flexible unlimited PTO policy. As Kathleen Davin, Senior People Operations Manager at Maven describes it, “we make sure that our employees know that unlimited PTO is flexible enough to accommodate any of their healthcare needs, including fertility treatments, recovery, and even just mental health days. It’s a way of showing them that we value their health and wellness above all else.”
Encouraging employees to use their benefits
One of the biggest challenges HR leaders face in supporting fertility is encouraging their employees to engage with their benefits. Davin argues that companies need to show their employees that it’s okay to take time for their family-building journeys, and that their leadership and policies need to make that abundantly clear.
“Because of the shame so many people feel about taking time off work for fertility treatments, it’s really critical to build a company culture that accepts and acknowledges their struggle,” says Davin. “Whether it’s referenced in your handbook or modeled by an executive, you need to show people that it’s okay to use their benefits, and that it’s okay to not be okay.”
On the flip side, not offering leave for fertility treatments might alienate some of your employees. Amrita Saigal, CEO of Kudos, asserts that restricting your employees' ability to take time off for fertility treatments is akin to restricting their access to those treatments in general—which can have dire consequences. “Making this treatment unavailable to employees will create resentment and lower your retention rate,” says Saigal.
Common questions your employees may have about fertility leave
If you’re gearing up to offer fertility benefits of any kind, including fertility leave, it’s likely your employees will have questions about what they entail and what their restrictions might be. Here are some common questions you might be asked:
- Is infertility a disability?
- Do I have to tell my manager about infertility?
- Can I take time off for IVF/IUI/egg retrieval?
- Should I just take a sick day instead?
These questions all touch on a similar theme: asking permission to receive a critical healthcare treatment without worrying about their paycheck or standing in the company. By offering paid fertility leave, whether through your PTO benefit or a dedicated fertility leave policy, you can show your employees that you value their health and wellness through a challenging time. As Davin describes it, “it means a lot to your employees to say the words ‘fertility’ in your policies. It shows them you’re listening, you’re empathizing, and that you understand what they’re going through. That makes a huge difference.”
Maven supports your employees throughout their journey
Maven is the leading digital family health benefit for innovative companies looking to support their employees on any path to and through parenthood. Our global network of providers are accessible 24/7 through our virtual care platform, offering advice, support, and referrals to a variety of in-person and in-network care, as well as a network of partnered fertility clinics. To find out how Maven can support your employees in their fertility journeys, contact us today.
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