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Fertility is becoming a business issue

Women are delaying having children. This can present challenges for employees and businesses.

Several factors are driving this. Over the same time scale, the number of women going to university, or pursuing higher education, has jumped.

15 percent

From fewer than 15% in 1974,4

41 percent

to 41% in 2023.5

Economic barriers

It’s also harder to buy a home. Latest data from the Office of National Statistics shows that, in England, the average house costs 8.3 times the average wage. In 1997, it was 3.5 times the typical wage. In Wales, the ratio has increased from 3 to 6.2.6

And would-be parents may prefer to consolidate their careers before starting a family.

Competing pressures

Charlotte Gentry, Founder of The IVF Network, says,

“It can be difficult to reconcile these competing pressures. There may be underlying societal expectations and prejudices to navigate.

“There will be women who decide to start their family as a solo parent. Individuals in same-sex relationships may face difficult conversations with family and friends. And people who identify as transgender or non-binary may have additional medical or psychological issues associated with their gender identity to navigate.

“But whatever the circumstances, things may not go to plan.”

And while fertility treatment offers hope, there are no guarantees. And, some people will choose not to take this route.

Mental health impacts

A recent study found that:

60 percent

60% of people in a relationship where one partner was undergoing fertility treatment said this had impacted their mental health.

49 percent

Almost half (49%) said infertility had undermined their work-life balance.12

There is a clear opportunity for businesses to improve the support available to employees wanting to start a family.

Research for the Fawcett Society found:

Mind the communication gap

Communication is a challenge.

Yet paradoxically, four in five women undergoing treatment believe it’s important to facilitate open and safe conversations around fertility at work.

Invest in the future

Talent retention

Resources from the Workplace Health and Wellbeing Academy

1 Statista, February 2024.

2 YouGov, June 2021.

3 Statista, February 2024.

4 Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (PDF, 0.4MB), 2008.

5 House of Commons Library

6 Office for National Statistics, March 2023.

7 British Fertility Society, At what age does fertility begin to decrease?

8 NHS, March 2022.

9 National Library of Medicine, Reproductive axis ageing and fertility in men, November 2022, DOI: 10.1007/s11154-022-09759-0

10 NHS, August 2023.

11 British Fertility Society, What is infertility?

12 Reproductive biomedicine online, Tailored support may reduce mental and relational impact of infertility on infertile patients and partners, February 2022, DOI: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2022.01.015

13 Totaljobs, The Fawcett Society (PDF, 4.3MB), Navigating fertility at work.

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