We were very proud to jointly host a Northern roundtable with Fertility at Work Matters in August, to discuss and examine the importance of employers recognising and supporting fertility issues, as well as the physical and emotional impacts and who is affected.
The roundtable also considered how employers can best recognise and support pregnancy and baby loss within policy and workplace conversations, and the importance of recognising all routes to parenthood.
Thrive Law Managing Partner and Founder Jodie Hill moderated the discussion, with Senior Associate Solicitor Alicia Collinson supporting and reading comments from anonymous voices who wanted to attend but did not feel able to.
Fertility Matters at Work Co-Founders Becky Kearns, Natalie Silverman and Claire Ingle brought their own lived experiences of facing fertility struggles and loss while in the workplace to the discussion, along with a combined 35 years+ of experience in professional HR and hosting events.
Joining both organisations on the roundtable at our headquarters in Leeds were:
- Dally Kaur, Director at Ideas That Work;
- Nicola Illingworth, Deputy Head of HR at Leeds City Council;
- Natalie Cosgrove, Partner at Ashtons Legal;
- Amy Ward, HR Manager at Arthrex; and
- Jade Richardson, Senior New Business Consultant at Advanced.
We are delighted to be able to share a summary of the roundtable’s discussion points, along with these Fertility Matters at Work resources that can support your understanding of this topic, including the Navigating Fertility Journeys In The Workplace whitepaper and The ‘F Word’ at Work podcast.
Why is it important that fertility issues are recognised and supported by employers?
- Employees can be left without a clear means of disclosure or communication around fertility issues if a pathway for disclosure is not clearly defined. This can make a difficult time even more difficult.
- Validation, for the employee and their experience.
- Employees are placed at odds with employers and isolated, making a potentially traumatic experience even worse.
- Reaction to changing trends within parenthood. For example, more people are establishing careers first, before having children.
- Employers will lose talent and fail to attract talent if they don’t support these issues and do so visibly.
- Loss of productivity among affected employees, who do not feel supported, are disengaged, and feel like their experience has not been validated. There is also the long-term impact on employees’ mental health.
- Lack of parity with other health issues, such as menopause. Are fertility issues being left behind?
Why are the physical and emotional impacts of the issue and who is affected?
- Emotional: shame, guilt, loss of identity, anger, trauma, grief, fear, anxiety.
- Physical: medical symptoms, lifestyle changes, effects of medication.
- High financial costs associated with fertility treatment. There is also a threat to the person’s livelihood as they need to stay in employment to pay for treatment.
- Men are often forgotten about when a heterosexual couple is going through fertility issues. Their masculinity and need to be present are challenged and mocked.
- Partners of men are affected as a result. They can lose their partner when they need them most.
- Company directors: how do they reasonably adjust themselves if going through fertility issues, given that they run businesses and may lack adequate support?
- Those with a disability or undergoing gender reassignment are affected in their own unique ways.
How can employers best recognise and support pregnancy and baby loss within policy and workplace conversations?
- Employers must practice what they preach—not just say they will provide support, but actually provide it and ensure it is working for those affected.
- Paid time to deal with fertility issues themselves and the grief experienced afterward.
- Having a fertility officer, much like a mental health first aider. A person with responsibility for communication, disclosure, signposting and acts as a confidante, someone who understands.
- Peer support networks.
- Training and guidance around language used so as not to extend or deepen affected employee’s trauma and grief.
- A clear, basic framework that recognises and respects the unique circumstances of each employee, with empathy and understanding baked in from the beginning.
The importance of recognising all routes to parenthood, such as surrogacy, solo parenthood, adoption
- There is a consistent failure of recognition among many employers that there alternative/multiple routes to parenthood and a variety of individual needs to cater for, such as those of LGBTQIA+ people.
- Policies often fail to recognise surrogacy and fostering, for example, and even when those are recognised, they can be viewed with contempt, definitely with a lack of understanding about what each entail.
- Employers should consult with all staff networks and find gaps in policies and then close them. Getting staff input will show employers what they’re perhaps unable to see, unlike those with lived experience.
- Little or no thought is given to childlessness.
If you would like to receive the full transcript and discuss fertility issues at work in more detail, get in touch via email@example.com.
Please note this blog is for reference purposes only and is only accurate at which the date it was published. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any actions. Please contact us if you have any questions on firstname.lastname@example.org.