Bourn Hall and Fertility Network UK join forces to help more employers implement ‘fertility fairness’

Bourn Hall Clinic is joining forces with the UK’s national fertility charity, Fertility Network UK, on their Fertility in the Workplace (FiTW) initiative, which helps firms support staff experiencing fertility struggles.

Claire Heuclin
Claire Heuclin

“One in six people have difficulties conceiving, and all are of working age. Infertility impacts both partners and can create devastating effects on all areas of their lives,” said Claire Heuclin, Fertility Network UK’s FiTW coordinator. “We are delighted Bourn Hall is partnering with us on our Fertility in the Workplace initiative.”

A recent survey by Fertility Network and Fertifa showed that nearly eight out of ten (78%) people, who have experienced fertility issues, said that fertility support or a fertility policy was very important when they were considering a new job or employer.

Flexibility to attend appointments and promoting greater understanding of what fertility treatment involves are two practical ways in which a fertility policy can help employers provide a more supportive working environment and retain staff.

“If employers and managers are aware of what fertility treatments involve and what the outcomes can look like, they can better understand the associated stress and can create safe spaces for staff to talk in confidence,” Claire continued.

Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, CEO and Medical Director of Bourn Hall, said:

Dr Thanos Papathanasiou
Dr Thanos Papathanasiou

“Many people have little knowledge of infertility or how it is treated. As a fertility clinic we can bring this clinical knowledge to FiTW and we are deeply committed to supporting Fertility Network UK in delivering this programme.

“While it is important for employers to make adjustments to support their staff, there is also a role for fertility clinics to be more supportive of people balancing treatment with work – so patients can keep ‘under the radar’ and not disclose their treatment if they wish, or by recognising the need for more flexible appointment and protocols in order to minimise the impact on a patient’s working day.

“We talk to patients who don’t want to jeopardise their careers, so they are trying to make appointments and inject hormone medication in secret – all the while balancing a rollercoaster of emotions from hope to despair.

“Additionally, some types of work can evoke emotional triggers. We see patients in professions such as teaching, midwifery, and the police where they work closely with children, often in distressing situations – and their managers have no knowledge of their personal trauma.”

The Fertility in the Workplace initiative provides education and support packages to employers to help them develop pragmatic fertility policies that work for them and their staff, as well as providing effective signposting and wellbeing support.

It also offers 1:1 support to employees so that they understand their workplace rights and how to approach their employer.

Until March 2025, thanks to funding from the Department of Health, these support packages are provided free of charge to small and medium enterprises across England.

Fertility Network UK is also part of the Workplace Fertility Campaign Group convened by MP Nickie Aiken.

Nickie Aiken will be hosting a drop-in event for MPs on March 13th at Westminster, to raise awareness of the Fertility Workplace Pledge, alongside her Private Members’ Bill, Fertility Treatment (Employment Rights) Bill, which would give employees a legal right to take time off for fertility appointments.

This event provides an opportunity for MPs to discuss this area of wellbeing at work. Dr Papathanasiou is attending to provide insight into the clinical side of fertility treatments and Bourn Hall’s work with FiTW.

Claire Heuclin with Thanos at MP drop-in event
Claire Heuclin with Thanos Papathanasiou at the MP drop-in event at Westminster

“Any awareness that can be raised amongst employers is a good thing”

Kelly resigned before embarking on IVF
Kelly resigned before embarking on IVF

Kelly felt so pressured to prioritise work over her recovery from her third loss from an ectopic pregnancy that ultimately, she took the drastic step to resign before embarking on IVF.

“Any awareness that can be raised amongst employers is a good thing,” she says. “There are simple things that employers can do such as allowing time off for an appointment and encouraging people with new babies to give a heads-up before they come in. And it is being supportive of the logistics so for example a woman cannot drive for 24 hours after egg collection and shouldn’t be left on their own so it is factoring that in that they wouldn’t be able to drive to their office the next day and that their partner might need to work from home or be off work to be with them.

“I think what Fertility Network are doing to raise awareness of fertility in the workplace and supporting both employers and employees is fantastic. I didn’t know about it at the time and it would have been really handy to give my boss some information so that he understood the process more and what support I might need.”

Read about Kelly’s fertility journey.

“We all have a role to play in being more ‘mindful’ about colleagues’ fertility struggles”

Carlene was entitled to paid time off for attending appointments
Carlene was entitled to paid time off for attending appointments

Carlene, who is a civil servant, and her husband had been trying for a baby for five years when they were told they would need fertility treatment.

“I was entitled to paid time off for attending appointments, scans and the IVF itself and that really helped with taking some of the stress off for me,” she says.  “My boss was really understanding and supportive.

“Bourn Hall gave me a schedule for my treatment so that worked well for planning around work as well.

Carlene feels that it is not just employers and managers who have a role to play in making workplaces more ‘fertility aware’:

“When we were going through our fertility struggles I would get ‘triggered’ by everything,” says Carlene. “I think we all have a role to play in being more aware and ‘mindful’ at work about the struggles that some people might be having. Something, such as a colleague bringing their new baby in to the office could be really upsetting for someone who might have experienced a miscarriage or had fertility issues.”

Read Carlene’s story.

For more information about Fertility in the Workplace visit

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