Employers are increasingly recognising the challenges facing employees going through IVF and, in so doing, are driving social change.
One of the areas where there has been the beginnings of positive change in the last couple of years is in recognition of the workplace challenges faced by people going through IVF. Earlier this week, the Diversity Network held a series of events on every aspect of being a fertility friendly employer.
It kicked off with a conversation with Anya Sizer, regional organiser for the Fertility network UK. She said being fertility friendly entailed a whole workplace change in favour of flexible and compassionate working, an approach that takes into account individual’s needs. The network’s work has grown massively, she said, as employers have become more aware of fertility issues and about the need not to have a one size fits all approach to employee needs. The network addresses myths around fertility and works with everyone from line managers to mental health first aiders as well as delivering sessions on specific issues such as how to help employees when their fertility treatment doesn’t work.
The growth of particular policies on fertility or reproductive health in response to such awareness raising has to be a good thing as it shows employees that the employer is sympathetic and provides a solid foundation for sensitive conversations. Employees know they have certain rights and, hopefully, the policy is accompanied by training for line managers.
Fertility is just one area where employers have a vital social role to play in educating people about major life issues. That extends from mental health to menopause and pregnancy loss. Many of these share a need for a more flexible approach to work to address particularly stressful or difficult times as well as a need for greater empathy at work. Having a flexible culture which can adapt to the things life tends to throw at most people seems a good business plan and being more empathetic to employees about their needs is always a better approach than putting your fingers in your ears and refusing to listen.
Often small adaptations can make all the difference. Often just being open and understanding makes all the difference. Oliver Hansard and Josh Mathieson have developed an Empathy Manifesto for employers. They say: “Empathy demonstrated by each employee multiplies and becomes a key enabler of a positive culture and brand experience of your wider organisation.”