Get All Access for $5/mo

The Issue You Probably Forgot to Consider When You Created Your Parental Leave Policies April 22-28 is National Infertility Awareness Week. Do you and your employees know what your colleagues are dealing with?

By Heather R. Huhman Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Antonio Esplugues | EyeEm | Getty Images

April 22-28 is National Infertility Awareness Week. As both an employer and someone who has struggled with infertility personally, I know this is a topic most leaders know little about.

Related: Employees With Infertility Are Leaving. How These 11 Companies Entice Them to Stay.

As a result, they unknowingly ignore how infertility affects their employees. They don't consider these employees' needs when making decisions, leaving the employees to struggle in silence.

One aspect of the employee experience that isn't often considered from an infertility perspective is parental leave. When a couple struggling with fertility finds a way to become parents, they still have unique needs. They might be exhausted after long and stressful treatments; they may be facing large medical bills.

Unless employers strive to understand and accommodate the unique needs these employees have, "parental benefits" will never be completely inclusive. Here are four things employers can do.

Don't earmark benefits.

Infertility and its causes are far from rare, yet many treatments aren't covered by traditional healthcare benefits. And while most health insurance plans help cover the costs of a traditional pregnancy, an infertile couple can't use insurance to cover the cost of an adoption.

Related: 19 Companies and Industries With Radically Awesome Parental Leave Policies

"At any given time, it's likely that a large portion of a company's employees are either thinking about starting a family, already pregnant or struggling to balance work and a family," Paris Wallace, CEO of the Boston-based women's health and technology company Ovia Health, said via email. "There is no other issue that impacts an organization as profoundly as these challenges."

This is why many employers suggest offering other options, such as a flexible health-spending account. As Lori Casselman, chief health officer of the Toronto-based employee benefit and wellness platform League, pointed out, employees should have more discretion over how they use that money.

Other organizations, like Ovia Health, give new parents a "baby bonus." This means that, no matter how a couple become parents, they receive money to help them financially. The important thing is that every case of infertility is different. So, the less red tape attached to parental benefits, the better.

Provide time up-front.

Most parental-leave policies focus on time off after the child is born. But in the case of infertility, employees often need to take time for significantly more doctor appointments and treatments before any confirmed pregnancy results. If employers aren't understanding of this need, the result for the employee(s) may be more stress on top of an already difficult situation.

To create better flexibility, the New York–based fertility benefits company Progyny has established safety nets. "This support gives people the peace of mind that if they need extra time, they can take it. That comfort level goes a long way," vice president of people Cassandra Pratt said in an email.

The key to making flexibility work is letting employees know their responsibilities are being covered; their absence is not burdening co-workers. Instead, companies plan for situations where, when one employee is out of the office -- for whatever reason -- other members of the team pick up the slack. This way, every employee can help support his or her co-workers without being overworked.

Build understanding.

At all stages of infertility, employees need support and understanding. Unfortunately, there's a stigma around talking about these issues. As a result, most people don't know about or understand what couples with this issue are dealing with.

"Even if your company isn't in a position to offer a fertility benefit, we suggest to first understand the problem and understand what your employee is going through," Pratt said. "Be there for them by showing your support, organizing a support group or by providing outbound education and support."

Never pressure an employee to discuss his or her confidential medical history. But do make sure the workplace is a safe place to share, if that's needed. Also, take the time to raise your team's awareness of infertility. Even if employees don't want to talk about their struggle, the rest of the company can benefit from knowing more about these issues and how to be supportive if someone they know is facing them.

Get feedback.

No matter how well-thought-out their parental benefits are, leaders may still overlook something. This is why it's imperative to gather feedback from employees to identify any gaps.

Start by focusing on which benefits employees actually use, and for how long. Sometimes, a benefit or perk seems like a great idea, but when employees actually use it, they discover it doesn't meet all their needs.

Related: How to Calculate the Right Parental Leave Policy

Also, take the time to ask employees for their opinions. Most people facing infertility are tapped into a network of others with the same issues. They hear about what other companies offer and how they've helped. Encourage employees to reach out when they learn about a new benefit that just might better address their needs.

Heather R. Huhman

Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, the PR solution for job search and HR tech companies. She writes about issues impacting the modern workplace.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Growing a Business

He Immigrated to the U.S. and Got a Job at McDonald's — Then His Aversion to Being 'Too Comfortable' Led to a Fast-Growing Company That's Hard to Miss

Voyo Popovic launched his moving and storage company in 2018 — and he's been innovating in the industry ever since.


ChatGPT is Becoming More Human-Like. Here's How The Tool is Getting Smarter at Replicating Your Voice, Brand and Personality.

AI can be instrumental in building your brand and boosting awareness, but the right approach is critical. A custom GPT delivers tailored collateral based on your ethos, personality and unique positioning factors.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

Is the AI Industry Consolidating? Hugging Face CEO Says More AI Entrepreneurs Are Looking to Be Acquired

Clément Delangue, the CEO of Hugging Face, a $4.5 billion startup, says he gets at least 10 acquisition requests a week and it's "increased quite a lot."

Business News

You Can Now Apply to Renew Your U.S. Passport Online — But There's a Catch

The U.S. State Department officially launched the beta program this week.

Business News

Sony Pictures Entertainment Purchases Struggling, Cult-Favorite Movie Theater Chain

Alamo Drafthouse originally emerged from bankruptcy in June 2021.