Fertility Awareness Week runs from Oct 30 to November 5 2023, and shines a light on everything about fertility awareness. But being aware is one thing – what about the impact of fertility treatment at work? For HR, this is a need-to-know topic, ever-changing and even possibly personal for you, too.
The week is a strong reminder about policy and behaviour from HR when it comes to the entire fertility journey – that is to say, fertility isn’t ‘just IVF’ and that, of course, women and men are affected.
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"Fertility is becoming a ‘hot topic’ in HR", says Anita Guru, Fertility in the Workplace officer at Fertility Network UK. With a growing interest in raising awareness and providing support to employees who are experiencing fertility challenges. “Some people will be experiencing infertility due to medical reasons, and this could be a male or female factor. Grief is a common emotion that underpins infertility and often not spoken about, but is part of the reality, as there can be many losses experienced on the journey. Miscarriage and baby loss can sadly form part of this journey - in the UK, it is estimated that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss during pregnancy or birth. Given all the possible routes and experiences of infertility, HR play a key role in understanding, recognising and establishing support mechanisms for their employees to create the right culture of support and inclusiveness, these are just some considerations and taking the first step is always moving the dial in the right direction.”
What we find is people don't talk about it because they don't feel their organisation will validate it. And then what happens is organisations sit there and say no one's talking about it, so it's obviously not an issue
'Shame and stigma'
The shame and stigma around the topic is a daily reality and, post-pandemic, the integrating of work and personal life means they are so intertwined we can’t ignore the personal at work any more. That includes the very complex experience of a fertility journey.
Claire Ingle is the co-founder of Fertility Matters at Work, and also works in an HR role. She explains: “What we find with these topics is they're still stigmatised in society, not just in the workplace. So this kind of stems from society. People don't talk about loss, they don't talk about pregnancy loss, they don't talk about stillbirth. They don't talk about neonatal and they don't talk about if people are trying to conceive. It's just not talked about. It’s like it’s ‘not normal’ but I hate using that term. And what we find is people don't talk about it because they don't feel their organisation will validate it. And then what happens is organisations sit there and say no one's talking about it, so it's obviously not an issue."