Written by Charlotte Gentry, founder of The IVF Network www.theivfnetwork.com/corporates
According to research conducted by The Fawcett Society ‘one in 10 women who continued working during the menopause ultimately left their jobs due to the symptoms they experienced.’
And the impact isn’t limited to employees going through the menopause. A large proportion of employees aren’t discussing menstrual health or fertility at all in the workplace, with 3 in 4 people feeling that their employer doesn’t create an open environment to discuss fertility, which could be reflective of the fact that 47% of companies have no supportive policies in place for employees struggling with fertility (‘The 2023 Workplace Infertility Stigma Survey’ carried out byFertility Family).
How do menstruation, perimenopause, menopause and fertility issues affect the employees who are going through these stages?
- Physical symptoms: Some individuals experience discomfort, pain, fatigue, and mood swings during their menstrual cycle. These symptoms can affect their concentration, energy levels, and overall well-being.
- Employees may need to take sick leave or time off to manage severe menstrual symptoms or conditions like endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
- Physical and cognitive changes: Menopause can lead to physical symptoms such as vaginal dryness, urinary issues, and cognitive changes like forgetfulness. These may affect an employee’s confidence and job performance.
- Emotional well-being: Hormonal changes can contribute to mood disorders and affect an individual’s mental health.
- Emotional distress: Struggling with fertility issues can be emotionally draining. Employees may experience stress, grief, and anxiety, which can affect their focus and job satisfaction.
- Medical appointments: Fertility treatments often require medical appointments, which can result in time away from work.
How do the effects of menstruation, menopause and fertility issues affect companies?
When employees are experiencing the symptoms listed above, their work quality and attendance are likely to be affected. This may lead to issues in the workplace around capability or even disciplinary action due to increased sick leave. In turn, this creates a risk of employers being accused of discrimination.
Statistics show that 1 in 7 couples have trouble conceiving, resulting in around 75,000 patients undergoing IVF cycles in the UK each year. However, less than half (42%) of women going through fertility treatment told their boss. Of those, one in four (24%) didn’t receive any support from their employer, and 24% said they experienced unfair treatment as a result (pregnant then screwed).
When employers have a range of policies in place that support all of their workforce, their employees are often less stressed, happier and more motivated. When employers are supportive, it has a positive impact on staff retention and recruitment too.
How can businesses support employees going through fertility treatment?
- Education and Awareness: work with an external organisation/platform or provide in-house resources about fertility treatment, including the costs, procedures, and potential risks. This could include; hosting seminars, workshops, or informational sessions for example
- Financial Benefits: consider offering a financial benefit/contribution to help cover fertility treatments
- Flexible Working Hours: be flexible when it comes to working hours pre, during and post treatment, often last minute appointments do have to be attended so an option for remote working could also be beneficial. Allow employees to use sick leave or paid time off for these appointments without fear of judgement
- Mental Health Support: offer access to counselling/mental health support services. This could be achieved by appointing an in-house advisor/officer or option to access external support covered by the employer
- Open Dialogue: encourage open and non-judgmental communication between employees and managers or HR departments.
- Privacy and Confidentiality: ensure that employees’ privacy is respected and any discussions surrounding their treatment is kept as a confidential matter.
- Support Networks: provide access to support groups or networks where employees can find out more information about fertility treatment and to connect with like minded individuals.
Understanding the importance of equality for everyone going through fertility issues and treatment is crucial for businesses. Businesses need to keep up-to-date with medical developments and social changes, the new laws and the support available, to help employees to make informed choices at every stage of their personal fertility journey. Education is the key to supporting both employees and employers. To increase awareness in the corporate world, companies need to create and keep improving their fertility policies.
About the author:
Charlotte Gentry is the Founder of The IVF Network which is born out of her 4 year journey through IVF. Charlotte is an entrepreneur who has built a successful events and communications agency and due to her challenges of trying to balance work and starting a family, has built the fastest growing membership community designed to help people and businesses navigate their way through the complexities of fertility. Charlotte is passionate about everything she does in her working life, and is committed to helping people who are undergoing a fertility journey, and hopes her support and guidance will stop them from falling into the rabbit holes she fell into. Her mission is to get people to their end goal faster by ensuring they have access to the best information in the fertility sector. She is proud to say as a result of her fertility journey now has a 3 year old son with her husband.
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/theivfnetwork/
‘BS 30416, Menstruation, menstrual health and menopause in the workplace’ Dr. Maria
‘Fertility treatment 2019: trends and figures’ HFEA
‘One in four women undergoing fertility treatment experience unfair treatment at work’ https://pregnantthenscrewed.com/one-in-four-women-undergoing-fertility-treatment-experien ce-unfair-treatment-at-work/
‘The 2023 Workplace Infertility Stigma Survey: do UK workplaces offer sufficient support for employees on their fertility journeys? https://www.fertilityfamily.co.uk/expert-opinions/the-2023-workplace-infertility-stigma-survey
‘Menopause and periods guidance is a ‘magnificent step forward’ BBC, 31st May 2023 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-65766889
‘Menopause and the workplace’ Fawcett