Workers will be given flexible and unrestricted paid time off to attend medical appointments for fertility treatment.
Partners of colleagues undergoing treatment are also entitled to paid time off, including same sex partners, intended parents, and workers conceiving through a surrogate.
They will be offered paid leave for up to ten appointments per cycle for up to three cycles of fertility treatment.
All 60,000 Co-op employees will have access to the new policies, regardless of how long they've worked for the company or how many hours they work.
Balancing work and fertility treatments:
Shirine Khoury-Haq, chief executive of the supermarket chain said: “It’s incredibly difficult to navigate through fertility treatment while balancing work and the wider impact it has on your life. Sadly, in some cases, there is also the need to manage the physical and emotional impact of failed cycles and even pregnancy loss.
“The decision to discuss this with your employer is an incredibly difficult and personal one. Having gone through all of this myself, I felt very lucky to be in a supportive professional environment yet this isn’t always the case. I feel very proud that the Co-op is leading the way on launching a fertility policy and supporting our colleagues at a time when they need it most.”
Research from Fertility Network UK showed the impact employer support had on people undergoing fertility treatment.
Less than half (45%) of those surveyed felt they received really good support from their employer. Over three quarters (77%) did disclose they were undergoing fertility treatment to their employer, but less than half (47%) said reasonable adjustments were made for them.
Just a quarter (25%) reported the existence of a supportive workplace policy, while 19% were unsure a workplace fertility policy existed.
More than a third (36%) of respondents felt their career was damaged as a result of fertility treatment and a majority (58%) felt concerned that fertility treatment would affect their career prospects. As a result, 15% of workers either reduced their hours or left their job.
Gwenda Burns, chief executive of Fertility Network UK, said proper support from employers can make a massive difference for people going through treatment.
Speaking to HR magazine, she said: "Feeling supported by your employer while you go through the physical and emotional rollercoaster of fertility treatment can make the world of difference to employees and also to the organisation they work for. Our research shows 15% of people juggling the time-sensitive and time-consuming demands of IVF with work either reduce their hours or quit their job. That is not good for business.
"However, if firms put in place a fertility policy which spells out what support an employee is entitled to this can remove additional workplace stresses.
"Fertility Network is calling for employers to recognise fertility treatment as necessary medical help and to provide appropriate time off work for clinical appointments, rather than employees being forced to use annual leave or take unpaid leave – which is not beneficial for either an employee’s mental or financial well-being."
Fertility Network UK surveyed approximately 1,300 people undergoing fertility treatment.