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Debunking the biggest myths about workplace family forming benefits

By Christie Hedge | June 4, 2024

From paid time off for appointments to counselling, fertility diagnostics to egg freezing, family forming benefits are offered by a growing number of UK businesses.
Health and Benefits

In the WTW 2023 Benefits Trends Survey, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) features in the top three leading external factors influencing an organisation’s benefit strategy. Family forming benefits are being offered or considered by many employers in order to promote and support DEI.

According to World Health Organization figures, infertility now affects roughly one in six people in their lifetime.[1] This perhaps surprising statistic means that supporting infertility and other family forming journeys in the workplace should be a key component of any current employee benefit provision.

Infertility and other family forming challenges have a strong impact on employee health and wellbeing. However, myths surrounding the implementation and management of family forming benefit programmes can sometimes stop organisations from taking proactive action. Employees, too, may be uncertain about how to raise the subject in the workplace.

Here, we separate the fact from the fiction and provide steps organisations can take on this increasingly popular work perk.

Myth 1: Talking about family forming could lead to a discrimination claim

While society has become more open about mental and sexual health, topics like infertility and family forming journeys (such as surrogacy), remain sensitive and stigmatised.

Employers often tread carefully, unsure of which questions are appropriate. Even with good intentions, they may inadvertently create discomfort for employees. Employees, on the other hand, may fear discrimination if their employer learns about their family planning decisions. Effective communication is crucial in addressing this issue. Consider the following steps:

  1. Open-door policy: Communicate an open-door policy regarding family planning. Make sure employees know they can discuss personal health matters with their line manager or HR business partner without fear.
  2. Regular focus: Highlight family planning support in internal communications, newsletters and employee handbooks. Keep the conversation going.
  3. External experts: Invite external experts to deliver TED-style talks on family planning, infertility and related topics.
  4. Resource groups: Create a family forming resource group. This provides a safe space for sharing experiences and information.
  5. Staff survey: Conduct an anonymous survey to gauge the importance of family planning support and benefits to your employees.
  6. Line manager training: Upskill and educate your line managers so that they feel empowered to have conversations with employees and can provide the best support and signposting for that employee.

Myth 2: Family forming benefits are just for heterosexual partnerships

Fostering an inclusive environment is imperative to address the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals who are statistically more likely to turn to alternative family planning methods.

Here are some steps to foster inclusivity:

  1. Inclusive language: Encourage the use of inclusive language throughout the organisation. Line managers should lead by example.
  2. Anti-discrimination policy: Implement an anti-discrimination policy that explicitly states zero tolerance for any form of discrimination. This policy should protect LGBTQ+ employees and ensure they feel safe and respected.
  3. Comprehensive benefits: Remember that family forming benefits encompass all legal alternative ways to start a family. This includes adoption, surrogacy, social freezing, intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). WTW’s Global Medical Trends Survey 2024 found that globally, over half of group private healthcare policies (covering more than 500 lives) still exclude fertility treatments (67%). Consider using a third-party vendor who can provide access to inclusive care.

Myth 3: Fertility treatment is just for women

Fertility treatment is not exclusive to women. In fact, World Health Authority research reveals that around 50% of fertility problems within a heterosexual relationship are linked to the man’s reproductive health.[2] Given that men are often less likely to openly seek professional help for fertility problems than women[3], it's vital that your benefits offering also addresses male fertility health.

Here’s how you can support both men and women:

  1. Educational materials: Include educational resources about male fertility health. Cover lifestyle factors, treatment options and online webinars focused on male infertility.
  2. Access to care: Ensure that health insurance plans or benefits via a third-party cover male-specific fertility treatments, such as sperm analysis or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
  3. Emotional support: Recognise that the family forming journey is emotionally challenging for both partners. Efforts should be made to provide emotional support to all potential parents in a partnership, including non-birth parents.

Myth 4: Fertility treatment and family planning won't be manageable with employees’ work responsibilities

With thoughtful workplace adjustments, you can help employees to keep working throughout their family forming journey.

Consider the following steps:

  1. Workplace adjustments: Implement flexible work arrangements to accommodate appointments and treatment schedules. Allow employees to adjust working hours, or work from home if possible and provide private and quiet spaces for any treatment needs. Consider physical adaptions to reduce strain on injection sites for those using IVF to form their family. Plan role-sharing to replace stressful customer-facing roles with back-office work.
  2. Time-off policies: Provide time-off policies that are equal for all employees, regardless of how their family is formed. Allow time off for both physical and emotional stress where needed.
  3. Emotional support: Acknowledge that family forming can be emotionally challenging. In cases of unsuccessful treatment, pregnancy loss and adoption or surrogacy challenges, offer specialist counselling or access to a third-party vendor who can provide ongoing emotional and educational support throughout the employee’s journey.

Debunking the myths

Debunking the myths surrounding fertility benefits is pivotal for organisations aiming to champion inclusivity within their workforce. Far from just ticking compliance boxes, it's about cultivating a culture of empathy and support where all employees feel valued and empowered.

By challenging misconceptions and implementing practical solutions, companies can navigate this process smoothly, ultimately creating an environment where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, regardless of their journey to parenthood.

How we can help

Our specialist DEI experts can help you to:

  • Implement a family forming benefit strategy or review any existing provision. We can look at your organisation’s policies, benefits, education and awareness tools and communications and provide guidance on how they can be enhanced. We can also identify gaps or overlaps and suggest potential solutions. Alternatively, we can help you start your journey to having a family forming benefit strategy, focusing on the areas above.
  • Provide benchmarking and insights. We can provide details of how your organisation compares to your peers, as well as insights into UK and wider global practices established by leading organisations for family forming.
  • Source solutions and carry out vendor reviews. We can help you find the best solutions to deliver your family forming strategy, including third-party vendor request for proposals (RFPs).

Complete the form opposite (or below on a mobile device) to book in for a personalised benefits assessment.


  1. 1 in 6 people globally affected by infertility: WHO Return to article
  2. Breakthrough into the cause of male infertility Return to article
  3. Men’s inclination to avoid seeking help for fertility concerns is shaped by gendered attitudes Return to article

Associate Director – DE&I Lead, Health & Benefits GB
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