Supporting male employees with fertility related challenges

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Fertility is not only a ‘women’s issue’ - the impact of infertility on men can be enormous, yet regularly goes unnoticed. In light of Men’s Health Week and Father’s Day, we look at improving support for men who are experiencing fertility issues.

When it comes to infertility, research and support predominantly centres around the perspectives of women. However, this fails to properly recognise that men make up half of the fertility equation and, in many cases, experience the very same struggles as women. As a result, it is crucial that the experiences of men are not overlooked when it comes to supporting employees with fertility related challenges.

A recent, rare study into the impacts of male infertility found that 93% of respondents felt that their well-being had been severely affected by fertility issues with most expressing feelings of embarrassment, anxiety and low self-esteem.  In many cases, this is exacerbated by the fact that support is scarce for men throughout the fertility treatment cycle – with men reporting that healthcare professionals often ignore their needs, instead directing any care and focus towards their female partner. It is unclear why this is the case given that men also suffer damaging consequences to their relationships, finances, career and overall mental health when faced with either their own infertility, or the emotional toll that can come with supporting a partner who has received a diagnosis of infertility.  

Arguably, there is also a greater stigma surrounding male infertility due to the traditional, harmful expectation that men should avoid opening up about their emotions and instead remain strong when faced with adversity. As such, more needs to be done to break down this perception in the workplace and beyond so that fertility related support more widely extends to men. Steps that employers should take to achieve meaningful progress in this area includes:

  • considering the wording of fertility policies and related communications in order to make sure that the language used is neutral and does not focus solely on women;
  • opening up conversations by encouraging men to share their personal experiences if they feel comfortable enough to do so, in turn making male fertility less of a ‘taboo’ topic;
  • creating a non-judgemental culture that prioritises male mental health and actively discourages harmful attitudes towards perceived ‘masculinity’; and
  • ensuring that any manager training on this topic does not overlook the impact of fertility treatment on men.

By taking these steps and adopting a more considered approach towards male infertility, employers can ensure that male employees feel heard and supported when it comes to this issue. 

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.

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