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One in four women who told their boss they were undergoing fertility treatment say they have experienced unfair treatment as a result.
One in four women who told their boss they were undergoing fertility treatment say they have experienced unfair treatment at work as a result, a survey has found.
This included emotional harassment, not being given promotions, and even being made redundant, the women surveyed said.
The poll, released today by the campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed, also highlights that most women undergoing fertility treatment still do not disclose this at work. Only 42% of women undergoing treatment told their boss.
“We are seeing an increasing number of calls to our helpline from women who experience discrimination in the workplace as a result of reproductive health issues,” Joeli Brearley, the founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said in a statement.
“Women are incredibly vulnerable at this time, and they need support from their employer, rather than prejudice. And employers should be very aware that this type of behaviour is unlawful and could land them in court if they are not careful.’’
Fertility issues are often considered a taboo, despite being common. Around 1 in 7 couples may have difficulty conceiving, according to the NHS.
This latest poll, released to coincide with Infertility Awareness Week, echoes the results of other recent surveys. Over a third (35%) of people undergoing fertility treatment felt that it had impacted their career, according to a 2016 study carried out for Fertility Network UK. Almost three-quarters (72%) of employees said their company didn’t have a fertility policy, according to a 2020 survey by Fertility Matters at Work.
Yet there has also been much progress in recent years. A growing number of employers are launching fertility policies that provide staff with paid leave or even financial support for treatments. Both fertility issues and fertility treatments can be emotionally and physically draining, with processes that involve multiple medical appointments.
The supermarket chain Co-op and the accountancy firm PwC are among those that now offer paid leave for appointments. The banking group NatWest and the energy company Centrica subsidise some treatments for staff, as well as running employee support networks about fertility.
Several companies have also introduced pregnancy loss policies that offer employees paid time off if they lose a baby at any stage of a pregnancy.
For employers that want to learn how to support staff with fertility issues, there are specialised companies that provide information and training. Fertility Matters at Work, one such company, can train employers and accredit them as “fertility-friendly”. Burgess Mee, a London law firm, became the UK’s first accredited fertility-friendly employer last year.
Pregnant Then Screwed is launching a similar scheme specifically for small and mid-sized employers later this year.