Fertility and reproductive health in the workplace remains a taboo. For many employers taking the first steps towards building a supportive, open dialogue and integrated support system for employees can feel like a mountain to climb.
Yet proactively addressing employee fertility challenges brings many benefits for employers including reduced absenteeism, higher levels of productivity, increased employee retention and commitment and a stronger corporate wellbeing brand.
So how can employers begin to address the taboo surrounding fertility issues in their organisations and take the first step towards providing better support?
The webinar below was delivered by the Workplace Fertility Community, a not-for-profit initiative whose mission is to transform fertility & family wellbeing in the workplace and break down the taboo surrounding fertility issues.
The committee discuss:
- How fertility issues can affect the individual
- How to find out who may be struggling with fertility issues in your workplace
- Who to connect with internally to help you create an influential group of advocates and raise this topic up the agenda of HR and business leaders
- What other organisations are currently doing about this issue
- What market-leading fertility support looks like
And a thank you to our speakers:
- Helen Burgess, Employment Law Partner at Shoosmiths
- Hortense Thorpe, Procurement Business Partner and founder of the Fertility Group at Centrica
- Helen Beedham, writer and speaker on professional careers and corporate work cultures and fertility ambassador
- Bruce Eaton, Director at Health Pulse Services
- Hema Wara, Product Director & Fertility Advocate at Fertifa
We were asked some brilliant questions throughout the webinar. While the committee were unable to answer all of them during the session, we have included further information below which we hope will be meaningful.
|“I joined your great webinar a few months ago. |
I’m really interested to hear how you see discussions on this topic within organisations has (or not) developed in this time, particularly in the context of Covid-19 and the attention and focus of business and HR leaders.”
|Signs are that COVID-19 has not diminished the growing interest in this topic. |
COVID-19 has focused the lens on the health and wellbeing of employees as disruption to working locations continues. As part of this renewed focus, employers are exploring beyond the traditional approaches and reproductive health and fertility are gaining appropriate interest. The focus on mental health and diversity and inclusion are in turn adding more immediacy.
Unfortunately, lock-down has delayed people’s fertility journeys and they will feel the pressure of wanting things to happen as soon as possible. This may potentially induce more stress than they would normally experience. It is therefore even more important to tune in and address the challenges caused by our current environment.
|“We have an employee who has been open about her fertility journey. |
It is definitely having an effect on her mental health and she is struggling quite often. Do the panel have any tips for how we can further support this person? She is around 12-18 months into her journey, not yet receiving any fertility treatment.”
|Some of the more traditional employee benefits that focus on mental health are not generally configured to deliver effective support in this area. |
By creating an environment that supports reproductive and fertility health and wellbeing through formal policy, creating forums and generally raising the bar will go some way towards helping this individual to know they have support.
Some specific actions you could consider are:
a) inviting another colleague who has experienced fertility issues to be her ‘buddy’
b) reminding your colleague of any existing support available such as EAP service, Fertility Network UK or her local fertility charity, or
c) exploring with her whether different/reduced working hours or pattern in the short-term would help her cope.
|“Sometimes infertility is a result of other ongoing chronic female medical conditions such as endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, fibroids etc.|
Which can cause regular pain and mental stress and really impact the quality of day to day life even before the infertility journey starts.
I really don’t think most employers understand the impact.”
|This is very true. |
The Workplace Fertility Community was founded on the basis that employers do not always understand and we therefore strives to provide a forum for discussion and guidance for employers and employees to move forward with understanding this area more and in turn creating different environments to support those individuals affected.
In raising awareness internally about fertility health and challenges, it’s helpful if information and messaging cover the full breadth of reproductive health instead of focusing more narrowly on assisted conceptions.
As an example, the Centrica Fertility Group also shares its members’ experience by posting articles and videos of members experiencing specific challenges. These have been powerful in raising awareness and sharing helpful advice.
|“With a lot of us working from home, what tips or suggestions do you have for couples embarking on fertility treatments?”||An online forum is a great way to allow people to connect in spite of not being in the office.|
However, confidentiality is also very important and offering ways for employees to anonymously ask questions is critical.
For instance, a service such as Fertifa could provide relevant support that is tailored to your employees’ particular situation and make sure they get what they need from the safety and comfort of their homes.
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