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Home » Employee Wellbeing » Fertility workplace support starts with culture and the right policies

Becky Kearns

Co-Founder, Fertility Matters at Work

Jo Riddell

Head of Employee Relations, Policy and Wellbeing, Selfridges

Challenges relating to fertility policies at work have been hidden in plain sight for far too long, with one in seven individuals impacted in the UK.

Workplace wellbeing, diversity and inclusion are currently in the spotlight, but actively supporting team members through difficult life events is more than grabbing headlines. Fertility Matters at Work (FMAW) partners with Selfridges to be the first retailer committing to becoming fertility friendly through education, awareness, policy and events.

A culture change that includes fertility policies

To successfully equip people facing fertility struggles with the appropriate support, employers must commit to a culture change. With fertility rates on the decline, the challenges within the workplace don’t just impact women; it also affects men and an increasing number of the LGBTQ+ community, 77% of which are already parents or intend to become parents, finds Family Equality Council. Trailblazing organisations are being strategic in how they communicate their fertility policies.

A fertility policy on its own isn’t enough

Selfridges has not only introduced leading policy and guidance but has successfully bridged vital, sensitive conversations with training for managers and company-wide events with continued momentum.

Jo Riddell, Head of Employee Relations, explains: “This conversation is particularly important as, whilst pregnancy and childbirth are highly visible, fertility challenges tend to be invisible, silent and often shrouded in secrecy.”

Policy on its own isn’t enough to encourage people to disclose personal information, with research by FMAW showing that over 61% didn’t feel comfortable talking to their employer about going through treatment, leading o 69.5% hiding appointments through sickness absence and almost 36% considering leaving their jobs as a result.

Whilst pregnancy and childbirth are highly visible,
fertility challenges tend to be invisible,
silent and often shrouded in secrecy.

Jo Riddell

Successful fertility policies need leadership support 

The first panel event hosted by FMAW featured Maria Glasscock — Selfridges HR Director — who showed leadership through vulnerability by sharing her experiences and opening the door for others to share theirs.

Recognising the diversity of their workforce and how it intersects with fertility and family-building, the retail company collaborated with them for an LGBTQ+ family-building panel event during Pride Month 2022.

Jo Riddell shares: “Teams have fed back on how leaders sharing personal stories has also encouraged conversations, giving the confidence for more team members to step forward, share their experiences and reach out for help rather than stay silent.”

Hopefully, more organisations will follow in their footsteps in becoming fertility friendly to improve a culture where everyone can feel psychologically safe to bring their authentic self to work in the knowledge that their family-building journey will be recognised and supported.

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