Publishing house Bonnier Books UK, which employs more than 300 members of staff in the UK, recognises the importance of opening up conversations and raising awareness of women’s health topics, such as fertility, menopause and pregnancy loss.
The organisation has partnered with pregnancy charity Tommy’s to access training and resources in order to have the right and relevant conversations with staff and acknowledges that fertility and other women’s health issues can impact other workers too. This has ensured that line managers are trained to respond compassionately, and are confident in reassuring and effectively communicating available support to any employee who is pregnant or has experienced the loss of a baby.
Fertility issues are more common than people realise, says Anna MacLaren May, human resources director at Bonnier Books UK. Dedicated fertility support, therefore, is often the next important step for employers to focus on after introducing assistance for pregnancy loss, menopause and family-related benefits.
“It’s a subject that isn’t really talked about and still has stigma attached to it,” she says. “It is important to raise awareness of the subject and equip line managers with the necessary resources to have conversations with staff who are going through treatment. This helps to reassure them that parental responsibilities will be supported.”
The organisation offers a dedicated pregnancy loss policy to its UK workforce, which it introduced last May. This provides staff with fully-paid leave when needed and flexible-working arrangements to support them on their return to work following their loss. There are no set leave days stated in the policy, as Bonnier recognises that not every situation will be the same and employees should take the time they need to recover.
The organisation also offers those who think it would help a confidential meeting with a line manager, a member of the HR team, or both, to help support them back to work. In addition, it provides a free 24-hour counselling service through its employee assistance programme, which is available to all staff and members of their immediate family aged above 16 who live with them at their home address.
From January 2023, new parents who have worked at Bonnier Books UK for more than two years will receive six months of fully paid leave, irrespective of gender, sexual orientation or how they become parents. This has been introduced in order to create a more equitable workplace and help attract, support and retain talented staff.
“We also offer staff flexible start and end times, which could help people who are experiencing issues but don’t feel comfortable discussing these with their line manager,” says MacLaren May. “For employers that may be thinking about offering their workforce fertility support, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not just about writing a policy. The key thing to do is to offer a range of support on the subject and behave compassionately.”