Have you told your employer you are trying for a baby?

Would you want to tell your employer that you are trying for a baby? Probably not. The Medical Director of Bourn Hall says that there is more that clinics can do to reduce the stress of balancing work and fertility treatment. His comments come ahead of the Fertility Network UK summit ‘Recognising Reproductive Health’ on 28th March, where he will be chairing one of the sessions.

Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, CEO and Medical Director at Bourn Hall Clinic, will be talking about how to reduce the stress of IVF treatment at the Fertility Network UK summit. The patient advocacy charity recently gained government funding from the Department of Health and Social Care’s Women’s Health and Wellbeing Fund for its ‘Fertility in the Workplace’ initiative, which aims to enhance the understanding of the impact of infertility.

Dr Papathanasiou comments: “The Covid pandemic gave us the opportunity to rethink the patient IVF journey. By necessity we reduced the amount of contact time during treatment and increased access to online consultations. Although patients and staff missed the face-to-face contact, we saw no impact on success rates from minimising in-person appointments.

“This experience has given us the opportunity to redesign the patient pathway. We have made it more flexible for those balancing the demands of work with the emotional impact of infertility, which has been described as a kind of grief.”

Balancing work and fertility treatment

Infertility is recognised as a medical condition and IVF as a course of treatment. Bourn Hall has developed ways to manage the treatment to minimise the impact on the working day; this includes offering flexibility over appointments and protocols.

For each round, the partner receiving treatment will require about five appointments over a two-month period, from initial consultation to embryo transfer. Good mental wellbeing is important and treatment is supported by nutritional therapy and counselling.

Working with employers

Speakers at the Summit include Nickie Aiken MP, who recently launched a private members bill to give individuals and couples undergoing fertility treatment statutory time off work. The Fertility Treatment (Employment Rights) Bill is now going to a second reading.

Anya Sizer is the Fertility in the Workplace lead for Fertility Network UK and she welcomes the bill, saying: “A lack of understanding and legal protections mean too many people juggling infertility and employment still do not get the support they need, and both individuals and firms suffer as a result.”

Other guest speakers include: Alex Davies-Jones MP, who has personal experience of juggling IVF and a career; and speakers from Co-op, who have who have recently introduced an enhanced fertility treatment policy, and AutoTrader, who have been working with Fertility Network UK on the latter’s Fertility in the Workplace initiative.

Recognising Reproductive Health’ is a free event, but numbers are limited so booking is essential. As well as speaker presentations, there will be plenty of time for networking and sharing ideas. The summit takes place on 28th March from 10.30am-3.30pm at City Hall, Kamal Chunchie Way, London E16 1ZE.

Book your place now.

More information

The Fertility Workplace Pledge has been launched by Nickie Aiken MP to give individuals and couples undergoing fertility treatment statutory time off work. The pledge has already been signed by several large UK employers including Co-op, NatWest Group, Metro Bank, Channel 4, Zurich Insurance and UK Hospitality.

The Fertility Workplace Pledge consists of four steps for employers to sign up to:

  • Accessible information: Having an accessible workplace fertility policy to create an open culture free from stigma; to make sure employees feel comfortable in the workplace; and to prevent the best talent from leaving.
  • Awareness in the workplace: Establishing the role of Fertility Ambassador to open conversations internally and make people aware of available support.
  • Staff training: Making sure line managers understand the realities of treatment for employees including the physical, mental, and financial impact — and how they can support someone going through it.
  • Flexible working: Giving the right for employees to request flexible working, including reasonable working adjustments, so they can attend appointments.

The second reading on 25th November was interrupted, so debate is to be resumed. Read more about the bill at bills.parliament.uk/bills/3235.

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Shreeya Tewary


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