A new policy launched by the Co-op Group will give paid leave to employees going through fertility treatment, as well as staff who are acting as surrogates.
Launched during National Fertility Awareness Week, the Group’s policy offers flexible and unrestricted leave to enable staff to attend appointments necessary for fertility treatment processes, including the use of a surrogate.
Employees with partners going through treatment may also take paid leave to attend up to 10 appointments per cycle, for up to three cycles of fertility treatment.
All the Group’s employees are entitled to this leave, regardless of how long they have worked for the business or the number of hours they work.
Staff are advised in the policy to talk to their manager as soon as treatment is approved, so that they can discuss adjustments that may need to be made.
YouGov research commissioned by the Group found that 45% of people who are currently undertaking, or have previously undertaken fertility treatment whilst working, didn’t talk with their manager beforehand. The Group has produced a guide to help managers support colleagues going through fertility treatment.
In addition to paid leave, the Group is offering employees going through fertility treatment access to a range of support including counselling, lifestyle and financial wellbeing services.
The new policy also includes a section covering embryo transfer and pregnancy rights, which connects to the Group’s existing pregnancy loss policy if embryo transfer is unsuccessful.
CEO Shirine Khoury-Haq said: “It’s incredibly difficult to navigate through fertility treatment while balancing work and the wider impact it has on your life. Sadly, in some cases, there is also the need to manage the physical and emotional impact of failed cycles and even pregnancy loss.
“The decision to discuss this with your employer is an incredibly difficult and personal one. However, by creating a supportive environment companies can go a long way in opening the conversation with colleagues and easing the stress that people in this situation often feel. Having gone through all of this myself, I felt very lucky to be in a supportive professional environment; however, this isn’t always the case for so many people. I feel very proud that the Co-op is leading the way on launching a fertility policy and supporting our colleagues at a time when they need it most.”
Claire Ingle, co-founder of Fertility Matters at Work, an organisation that offers support and advice for anyone affected by fertility issues, said: “It is inspiring when organisations such as the Co-op recognise the need to support conversations such as this one.
“Policies are a great starting point to get the ball rolling and signal to people in the organisation that their struggles are valid but there is more we can do to see significant cultural change in this arena to really make a difference for those who are faced with fertility struggles.”