The new Workplace Fertility Pledge has been launched to give individuals and couples undergoing fertility treatment statutory time off work.
An estimated 3.5 million people in the UK struggle to conceive naturally and look to treatments like IVF to help them to conceive.
Sarah Martin from the Narrow Quay HR team shares her personal journey with managing fertility treatments alongside work, and how this new pledge could make a huge difference to employees who are undergoing similar treatments.
Managing Work and IVF
Between the ages of 29 and 34 I went through four cycles of IVF, so I can say first hand that it is a gruelling experience. The medication, the side effects, the multiple appointments and then the dreaded two week wait to see if it’s been successful, following by the crushing disappointment when it doesn’t work.
I took a couple of years off before we embarked on the fourth cycle, to mentally regroup and recharge. When we got to round four, with finances depleted and three unsuccessful rounds behind us, we decided it was time to take a slightly different approach.
We decided that I would drop from working five days a week to four days to allow me to spend more time focussing on treatment and other holistic treatments, such as acupuncture. This was in 2013, so flexible and part time working was not really a thing for women in their early thirties with no children, especially in the legal sector. In addition, I hadn’t really shared with many of my work colleagues that I was having IVF treatment, something which is of course entirely personal to the individual.
My line manager was hugely supportive and because of the nature of my role at the time, I was able to make the adjustment. The only tricky part was how to communicate the change to the rest of the team, but when it came to it nobody really asked any questions.
What Is the New Fertility Workplace Pledge?
Fast forward to 2022 and the new Fertility Workplace Pledge, which has been launched by Nickie Aiken MP. Several major employers have now signed up to it, including Co-op, Natwest, Metro Bank and Channel 4.
By signing up, employers pledge to provide the following:
- Accessible information: Having an accessible workplace fertility policy to create an open culture free from stigma, to make sure employees feel comfortable in the workplace, and to prevent the best talent from leaving.
- Awareness in the workplace: Establishing the role of Fertility Ambassador to open conversations internally and make people aware of available support.
- Staff training: Ensuring line managers understand the realities of treatment for employees including the physical, mental, and financial impact — and how they can support someone going through it.
- Flexible working: Giving the right for employees to request flexible working, including reasonable working adjustments, so they can attend appointments.
These are simple, common sense pledges that have the potential to make a huge difference to employees undergoing treatment and to those supporting their partners going through treatment.
How Can Employers Sign Up to the Pledge?
Signing up to the pledge is entirely voluntary, but if employers are keen to do so, then can do so here.
For those who are interested, but perhaps not sure about signing up, you can still think about how you might follow some or all of the steps highlighted above in order to make your workplace more fertility treatment friendly for your staff.
For me it was a happy ending, our fourth round of IVF treatment was successful and I gave birth to twins in September 2014. I can’t say if being able to work flexibly was a factor in that but it certainly made the process a lot easier.