A study for Fertility Network UK by Middlesex University found that 58% of respondents felt it was difficult to manage work commitments whilst undergoing fertility treatments. The stress of infertility also made it hard to concentrate at work, with 35% saying it had affected their careers. ‘Work, Life and IVF’ is the subject of our next Fertility Support Group meeting 21 January 2021.
Anya Sizer of Fertility Network UK has been working on a programme “Fertility in the workplace”, which was set up by the charity after its research showed the extent of the problems experienced by people with infertility issues.
She comments: “Many people asked, ‘how can I carry on working to the best of my ability when all my thoughts are taken up with going through treatment?’ This presentism is also an issue for employers, many of whom didn’t understand the stress their employees were experiencing or know that infertility is defined by the World Health Organisation as a medical condition.
“Once we started to explain this to employers it was a light-bulb moment and created an opportunity to look at how the situation could be managed better.”
The charity is now working with employers of all sizes to improve their understanding of infertility as a medical condition and improve the environment for people undergoing fertility treatment.
Anya says that 90 percent of people with long-term infertility will experience depression at some point.
The charity has found that although in the UK, employees have a right to absences for pre-natal and for post-natal care and the right to request flexible working, pre-conception care is not a statutory right, so relatively few work environments have formal policies in place to support people having treatment.
Only a quarter of the respondents to the research reported the existence of supportive workplace policy and less than half received really good support from their employer. Where a policy was reported, it sometimes specified 5 days of leave, but half of the respondents needed more than 5 days and the average number of days off per cycle was 9.
A supportive employer was associated with lower levels of distress.
Anya says that many people beat themselves up, thinking they should be coping better with work, she advises: “You won’t solve the issue of presentism by trying harder, the starting point has got to be ‘this is an incredibly stressful situation how can I help myself and what things would help reduce the stress’ level only when you start with self-compassion is it possible to engage better with the world of work.”
Work and fertility
Coping tips for balancing work, life and IVF are to be discussed in a Fertility Support Group, hosted by Bourn Hall with guest speakers on 21st January 2021 at 6.30. There will be an opportunity to share experiences and gain advice.