Time off for IVF treatment has been rolled out by Lidl. Photo: Picsea

Paid fertility leave for supermarket workers

By Katie O’Keeffe

Lidl Ireland is set to become Ireland’s first major retailer to offer all employees paid time off for fertility support.

The retail giant has updated its paid leave policy and fertility support programme to reflect the inclusion of two days at full pay, per cycle, for employees undergoing egg freezing and IVF.

The new policy will extend to all Lidl’s 6,000 employees across its stores, regional distribution centres and offices across the island of Ireland.

The initiative is part of Lidl’s Lupilu Family Leave programme. Other initiatives in the programme include Maternity and Adoption Leave Top Up and Paternity Leave Top Up.

In 2021 Lidl became the first company in Ireland to recognise early pregnancy loss and miscarriage as a bereavement as part of its new compassionate leave policy offering three days at full pay to all employees, regardless of gender, including those with a surrogate mother affected by an early pregnancy loss and miscarriage.

Unlike standard policies in place nationally, Lidl’s new policy will have no limit to the number of IVF cycles employees can avail of this policy for, and it will be offered to all employees regardless of length of service.

The announcement comes as Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly received Cabinet approval for the publication of the Health (Assisted Human Reproduction) Bill 2022 and its presentation to the Dáil.

The legislation published at the end of February 2022, will regulate fertility clinics and domestic altruistic surrogacy here for the first time and is said to pave the way for costly fertility treatment, currently only available via private clinics, to be provided by the public health system for the first time. Ireland is currently one of the very few EU countries that does not offer publicly funded fertility treatment.

Cork South West Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns told the Cork Independent: “It is welcome that employers offer paid leave for IVF treatment in order to support their employees through what can be a stressful time. This also underscores the complete absence of State support for IVF. Ireland is currently the only EU country that does not offer any State funding for assisted human reproduction.”

She added: “Leo Varadkar first promised to introduce State support for fertility treatment in 2016. Six years later and that promise remains unfulfilled. The Government has now pledged to introduce State supports next year. This commitment must be kept.”

Lidl’s new fertility paid leave policy is part of a relaunch of its industry-leading benefits package including compassionate leave for employees affected by early pregnancy loss or miscarriage, menopause support resources for employees and line managers, maternity leave, adoptive leave, paternity leave, parents leave, fostering leave and carers leave. The new package is designed to support and develop employees, ensuring that they can achieve their potential whilst balancing the demands of taking time out of work to care for their families.

Speaking about Lidl’s new policy update, Kate Bohan, Sales Operations Manager said: “Lidl’s ongoing recognition of the changing needs of our colleagues is a testament to the company’s commitment to being an employer that stands for more, and one that isn’t afraid to break stigmas on topics that historically were shrouded in silence. My partner is currently pregnant with our second baby through IVF, and I am immensely proud to see Lidl fiercely support women undergoing this process in a sensitive and caring way.

“The experience of IVF can be distressing, both emotionally and physically, and is not a topic commonly discussed. I was fortunate to have a very supportive line manager and I am grateful that my openness has helped shape this policy for colleagues who may be undergoing this process in the future. Through recognising the need for change in this area, Lidl is acknowledging not only the support needed in time off, but also contributing to the conversation surrounding IVF, which is beneficial to us as a workplace, but also as society as a whole.”