Trying for a baby can feel like the most significant thing in a person’s life when they are right in the middle of it. The idea that we do this in isolation from our working lives is totally unrealistic, yet people still find it too difficult to talk to their employers. I have been an HR professional for over a decade and I still struggled initially to open up to my manager about my own fertility journey.
Both as an HR director, and a woman with first-hand experience of how tough it can be to talk about fertility at work, to me the task for employers is clear: break down the social convention that these issues are not discussed in the workplace.
There are several practical things employers can do to make this a reality.
First, give employees the flexibility to fit their fertility treatment around work; this will give them the time and space to attend appointments, check-ups and tests. There may be some days in an IVF treatment cycle, for example, during which it is not possible to work. Greater flexibility from employers ultimately means less disruption, more goodwill and, in turn, a happier workforce.
Second, treat fertility just like any other medical issue. That applies to medical appointments for fertility treatment, too. Of course, it is important for employees to keep employers informed about ongoing treatment and reasons for absence, but employers do not have the right to ask intrusive questions.
Third, remember that infertility affects all genders, as well as same-sex couples, mixed couples and individuals. When implementing and communicating policies, employers should ensure that these are not unnecessarily gendered, so as not to alienate same-sex couples and non-binary individuals.
Finally, be considerate and compassionate. The emotional impact of infertility cannot be understated, and going through treatment is often a deeply traumatic process. An understanding employer can make all the difference during fertility treatment. Keep channels of communication open, and ensure that any employee going through fertility treatment, be it IVF, surrogacy or adoption, feels supported.
Lisa Finnegan is senior HR director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Latin America (Latam) at LinkedIn