Fertility Matters at Work
Play • 50 min

Continuing our series on all things to do with navigating a fertility journey whilst working, we’re delighted to chat with Natalie’s co-founder and partner in crime at Fertility Matters at Work - Becky Kearns. Sadly, Claire Ingle who is also a co-founder had tech gremlins and couldn’t join us to chat. We’re also joined by Helen Burgess who, like Kate, is a partner at Fertility Matters at Work and an employment lawyer at Shoosmiths.

 

Becky gives us the low down on the recent launch of the Fertility Matters at Work e-learning training and policy program, that supports employers become ‘fertility friendly’. E-learning helps employers understand what is involved in a fertility journey but also how to have conversations to support their employees. The e-learning covers all the different ways in which families can be made, including solo motherhood and same-sex relationships, and is suitable for all organizations whether large or small.

 

Helen shares why her firm, Shoosmiths was keen to start talking about this topic. After talking to colleagues Helen found that, like her, there was very little support in the workplace, and as an employment lawyer wanted to shine a light on employers and organizations.

 

Becky and Helen share their own personal experiences of their fertility journey in the workplace and the difficulties they faced. Becky experienced early menopause at the age of 28. She luckily had flexibility in her role, as an HR professional, to attend appointments but struggled with disclosing her diagnosis and the need for treatment. In particular, she struggled with the emotional aspects and juggling her workload. She just felt so alone and exhausted. Helen, similar to Becky, was in a senior position and therefore had the flexibility to attend fertility treatments and fortunately had a supportive colleague. Helen made the decision to divulge to her team, but the flip side was the need to than to tell work when a fertility treatment fails, and the difficulty of reliving it all whilst trying not to be emotionally reck at work.

 

Claire talks about the difficulty in disclosing your fertility journey to your employer and their worries over confidentiality and the impact on their careers, but also how often disclosing can be a relief if you are given the support you need. She also talks about the constant triggers in the workplace from baby showers and new babies being brought into the office. Fertility wellbeing is so much more than just having the flexibility to attend appointments…….

 

Kate asks Helen what organizations need to consider from a legal perspective. Sadly, currently, there is very little protection for employees. There is no legal right to attend appointments and it is down to the employer. Helen mentions that in some circumstances if you’re refused flexibility to attend appointments then it could amount to indirect sex discrimination. Employers do need to consider when employees are not on their A-game so that they can offer support. After embryo transfer, you are protected by pregnancy discrimination protection.

 

Helen is not sure if there will be a legal change in the future but is hopeful, but certainly not in the short term. Disability employment law doesn’t cover infertility but could cover some of the conditions that lead to infertility such as severe endometriosis. Helen also discusses the complexities of same-sex relationships and discrimination.

 

We talk about how a policy is the first step, but employers need to consider so much more such as raising awareness, recognizing the complexities of fertility in the workplace, and peer support. Employers need education on what to say and what not to say.

 

Becky shares her advice on how employees can start a conversation with their employer. The Fertility Matters at Work, website provides lots of guidance in relation to this but Beck recommends writing a list of points you want to raise in the meeting, making sure you have the conversation in a private space, highlight the need for confidentiality, be prepared to educate your employer as they may know very little about what’s involved with fertility treatment and explain the need for flexibility. It can be helpful to agree on a communication plan, so you don’t feel the need to be constantly updating your employer. Importantly, say what you need, and don’t be afraid to signpost your employer to fertility matters at work to provide them with the information they need.

 

At the end of the podcast, we all agree that we’re beginning to see a drive for change and there are more conversations. The potential feels huge. Watch this space…………

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