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‘The workplace taboo around fertility needs to be broken’

THIS week sees a campaign aiming to raise awareness of fertility issues and their impact in the workplace.

National Fertility Week (November 1-5) includes Fertility Matters at Work launching its workplace education and policy programme, supporting organisations in becoming “fertility friendly”.

It is an important topic that relates to mental health, workplace wellness and women’s reproductive health, says Fertility Matters at Work, a new Community Interest Company specialising in fertility workplace education.

It has been set up by three women each with their own individual fertility experience. Their personal insights are complemented by more than 30 years of experience as HR professionals alongside the founder of the UK’s longest running fertility education podcast The Fertility Podcast

Their mission is to break down barriers and taboos on a subject that is often difficult to discuss for both employees and employers.

They have collaborated on the project to provide a broad range of fertility support and benefits to complement their training and policy offering. Fertility Matters at Work has partnered with:

Fertility Circle, an app which provides expert support, information and community for people experiencing fertility issues; 

Hertility Health, which offers at-home fertility and menopause testing and treatment for employees; 

UK law firm Shoosmiths, assisting on the legal and advisory aspects of the project by employment law specialists.

(l-r) Natalie Silverman, Claire Ingles and Becky Kearns, co-founders of the CIC Fertility Matters at Work.

Natalie Silverman, co-founder of Fertility Matters at Work with Becky Kearns and Claire Ingle and founder of The Fertility Podcast, said: “We believe the Fertility Matters at Work initiative to be a first of its kind designed to enable employers to support their people through this often difficult experience, one that can have a significant impact on mental health and emotional wellbeing. 

“During 35 years of HR experience, neither Becky or Claire have ever been approached by an employee needing support through fertility struggles – this silence speaks volumes.”

The new educational e-learning and training programme guides participants on what fertility treatment is, how common it is, the patient journey, the impact from a physical, emotional and financial perspective, how employers can encourage disclosure, why it is important to recognise fertility treatment as part of the workplace, how to hold constructive conversations and how workplaces can become more fertility friendly. 

Fertility Matters at Work also offers bespoke training and policy development consultancy, with research-based insights and practical recommendations to support organisations attracting and retaining talent in becoming one of the first “fertility friendly” employers.

Helen Burgess, employment partner at Shoosmiths, said: “‘You may be tempted to think “Not another e-learning tool…”  but this is not a standard e-learning package. A great deal of time and effort makes it informative, accessible and engaging. 

“The taboo around fertility in the workplace needs to be broken and managers and employees need to have this firmly on their radars and know how to deal with the issue, whether they are going through fertility challenges personally or are managing people who are.”

Karen Hanson, co-founder of Fertility Circle, said: “It is time for change in the workplace. Fertility Matters at Work have created a much-needed, comprehensive and informative bank of resources which will not only help employers to be respectful and mindful but also to provide a supportive environment for their employees who are having fertility treatment.”

Hertility Health’s founder and chief executive Dr Helen O’Neill added: “I am thrilled to be supporting Fertility at Work. With one in three women suffering from a reproductive health issue, we hope this project will help to destigmatise conversations around fertility in the workplace.”

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