The Fertility Podcast is back with a new series on fertility in the workplace. Through our corporate consulting at Your Fertility Journey and as medical advisor at Fertility Matters At Work we work with organisations to include fertility in the workplace as a priority on their wellbeing agenda. Over the last 18 months we’ve enjoyed working with various organisations including large UK Banks, law firms and regional councils.

There has long been a lack of awareness over how infertility can impact your experience at work. Not only are there the physical impacts of fertility treatment and pregnancy loss, but also the impact on mental health too. Although there is work being done to change how fertility is approached in the workplace, many people still feel afraid to have conversations with their employers for fear of how their career could be affected.

Channel 4 and the development of their pregnancy loss policy

In recent months, more organisations have published fertility and pregnancy loss policies. Channel 4 announced their Pregnancy Loss policy in April 2021. The Fertility Podcast welcomed Navene Alim, a senior lawyer within the corporate legal team at C4, and Landy Slattery, creative director of All 4, C4’s on demand platform, to talk about the policy and its importance. Both are the co-founders and co-chairs of the 4 Women network.

The policy was developed after the successful launch of the menopause policy in 2019. Wanting to build on the success of the menopause policy, surveys were sent out to C4 employees, with pregnancy loss appearing a major issue for the workforce. There was a realisation that people were struggling in silence.

Implementing the policy and adaptations along the way

C4 are making sure that training is provided for managers and colleagues to help support employees appropriately. In finding the best solutions for support, it is important to acknowledge that pregnancy loss is part of a woman’s working life, not just at home. Recognising this and having these conversations is the first step to implementing any policy.

Further findings since the policy launched have revealed that women were anxious about being passed over for promotion and conversations over topics such as childlessness were being discussed more. It is not just women that are affected by fertility struggles. C4’s policy provides support for men too. Male infertility is just as common as female infertility, being a 50/50 split.

The Education sector and the experiences of teachers

We interviewed 4 teachers on the Podcast to hear more about their unique experiences and why it is vital it is to implement fertility policies within education.

First up, we chatted with Caroline Biddle. Caroline was a secondary school drama teacher for 9 years. She no longer teaches but wants to change the way fertility issues in teaching are managed. She set up her organisation, Fertility Issues in Teaching, which is the first and only organisation to deliver specialist consultancy and training exclusively for schools to raise awareness around the impact to staff experiencing infertility and pregnancy loss. The organisation supports schools to recruit and retain the best staff by becoming inclusive, flexible, and equitable, as they move towards fertility friendly workplaces. Having gone through fertility treatment while teaching, Caroline experience different styles of support at different schools. Neither had fertility policies in place and she would have to explain every single appointment. This experience led her to the work she does now.

Claire Walker went through fertility treatment with her partner who was transitioning from female-male. Her employer at the time said that “IVF is elective like cosmetic surgery” without any understanding for her individual circumstance. Claire said comments like this made her feel undervalued, despite the hard work and hours that teachers dedicate to their jobs.

No longer a teacher, Claire Stewart- Hall now coaches people about race, adoption, and LGBTQ in the workplace. Back when she was a teacher, she experienced the trauma of a miscarriage after being punched in the stomach by a pupil. She also experienced difficulties of trying to conceive whilst juggling a busy role as a vice principle, as well as dealing with the taboos of being in a same sex relationship. Now undertaking a doctorate on race and policy in schools, she talked about how policy can be interpreted differently by individual schools. Struggles include how leaders will often select what they want out of the policy or interpret the policy based on their own individual experience.

In contrast, Nic Jessop’s experience has been a positive one. Her work environment was really supportive during her recent successful IVF treatment and frozen embryo transfer. Her employers had a good understanding of what’s involved in fertility treatments and her boss actively tries to understand what her employees are going through. This experience is an example that other schools should aim to follow.

The added stress of working in an unsupportive environment while going through fertility treatment should not be overlooked. This has a physiological impact on the body which could also affect a person’s ability to conceive.

These stories show just how important it is to make fertility a priority in workplace wellbeing. It’s time for change.