Fertility challenges and pregnancy loss remain a taboo, particularly in the workplace.
Research by YouGov that 45% of people did not talk to their manager before undergoing fertility treatment – this was because they thought it was too personal to discuss (51%), they felt uncomfortable (42%) and they thought it might impact their career (21%).
This is a huge problem; how can employees be expected to perform at their best when they are going through (or watching their partner go through) invasive medical treatments, as well as the emotional highs and lows of trying to have a child?
If employers want to truly be inclusive and equitable, they must step up and treat their employees as humans with personal struggles. Not only if this the right thing to do, but it is good for business in the long-term – despite the ‘Great Resignation’, are workers really going to leave a job where their employer looked after them during a challenging time?
Here are some examples of employers leading the way around fertility treatment. Are you ready to step up and follow suit?
As part of its commitment to be an inclusive workplace, Co-op has decided to introduce a new fertility policy that provides all of its 60,000 staff (irrespective of their length of tenure or how many hours they work a week) with paid leave for fertility treatments.
Interestingly, the leave allowance is flexible and unlimited, according to Co-op because “we don’t’ assume to know what people will need”.
The paid leave will be available to employees who are acting as surrogates, as well as to those whose partners are undergoing treatment so they can be there to support them through the procedures. In the latter case, the paid time off is limited to 10 appointments per cycle and up to three cycles of fertility treatment.
In addition to the paid leave, Co-op employees are entitled to counselling and wellbeing support through YuDoctor, lifeworks, and YuLife.
Talking about the move, which was announced at the beginning of the UK’s National Fertility Week, Co-op CEO Shirine Khoury-Haq 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. However, by creating a supportive environment companies can go a long way in opening the conversation with colleagues and easing the stress that people in this situation often feel.
“Having gone through all of this myself, I felt very lucky to be in a supportive professional environment; however, this isn’t always the case for so many people.
“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.”
Co-op is not the only employer becoming more inclusive through offering fertility leave. Professional services giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) will give its staff (of any gender) eight days of paid leave for fertility consultations and appointments – partners will be able to take two paid days off.
At the same time, PwC launched a new fertility support network for employees. Employees also have access to wellbeing app Peppy for menopause and fertility support.
These policies were introduced in response to feedback from PwC employees who wanted to build awareness (and break the taboo) around fertility at work.
Sarah Churchman, PwC UK’s chief inclusion and wellbeing officer said: “Undergoing fertility treatment can be a deeply personal and challenging time for individuals, with many finding it has a negative impact on their mental health.
“Our own employees have signalled the significant impact of fertility treatment on wellbeing – and the extent to which this can be influenced by how their employer responds”.
These benefits are definitely available to UK-based PwC employees, but it remains unclear if employees have access to fertility leave in the other markets where the firm operates.
Challenger bank Monzo made waves last year when it introduced paid leave for employees who have gone through pregnancy loss, which includes abortion, miscarriage or still birth.
Importantly, Monzo made sure its policy of up to 10 days leave around pregnancy loss isn’t just aimed at heterosexual couples, and therefore it is available to partners and surrogate mothers.
The bank is also offering up to eight days a year of leave for fertility treatments – this leave is fully flexible.
Monzo shared: “This might be used for taking time to rest after a procedure, recover from the emotional effects of treatments or to attend outpatient appointments and scans. We’ve also created an employee support group for colleagues going through similar journeys”.
Another bank stepping up around fertility is NatWest.
NatWest recently made headlines for its updated parental leave, which is now equal and non-gendered, but it also offers up to five days of paid leave for pre-adoption or surrogacy appointments.
Employees are also eligible for up to five days per cycle for both partners when going through fertility treatment, and two-weeks bereavement leave for loss more than 24 weeks into the pregnancy.
NatWest has gone even further and is actually offering its employees discounts on their fertility treatments, including IVC, sperm freezing and donor egg treatment. This was introduced after consultation with NatWest’s employee-led fertility and loss network.
A senior Natwest banker, Asma Ali, who founded the fertility and loss network, said: “Having gone through fertility issues and miscarriages, I know how this impacts people. It can be a very lonely time for individuals.”
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