Asda staff undergoing treatment for infertility will be able to take time off under an innovative new leave scheme introduced by the retail giant.
Under the leave package, announced to coincide with Work-Life Balance week (1-5 September), women are eligible for five days paid leave, which can be taken singly or together depending on circumstances, while male employees are entitled to one-and-a-half days leave.
David Smith, Asda's people director, said the company had decided to introduce fertility leave after receiving an increased number of requests from staff wanting more support as they go through the in vitro fertilisation (IVF) process.
Smith said that couples invest a lot emotionally and financially in IVF and the company wanted to make the process easier.
"During this highly stressful time, colleagues sometimes take time off work without telling us why. This meant higher absence rates for us and increased stress for the colleague - highly counter-productive for those undergoing treatment."
"Both morally and from a business perspective we believe that this is something that is needed," he said.
The IVF leave will give women time off to have eggs harvested (a process that requires a general anaesthetic) and to have eggs re-implanted when rest and relaxation are crucial to success. It is expected male staff will use their leave to support their partner during the process.
The number of people receiving IVF could soar if a draft recommendation by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, to provide free IVF treatment to women aged between 23 and 39, is implemented.