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Women undergoing fertility treatment experiencing unfair treatment at work

A new study found 22% of women who told their boss they were going through fertility treatment experienced unfair treatment at work.

The study, from motherhood charity Pregnant Then Screwed, found 42% of women going through fertility treatment told their employer.

However, of those who disclosed, one in four (24%) did not receive any support from their employer. 

Lauren Fabianski, head of communications and campaigns at Pregnant Then Screwed, said the research should remind employers that employees at all levels of a company should be trained in fertility policies.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Line management must be empowered to feel confident to have these difficult conversations with empathy and respect. 

“HR teams can be brilliant, but usually managers are the first port of call and can really damage the relationship when not handled with respect and empathy.” 

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Fabianski said fertility policies are essential and should be carefully constructed to be in line with company values. 

She added: “Practically, HR teams should be offering internal training for line managers, documents to support employee conversations, details in the staff handbook and policies clearly outlining support offered.” 

The study also found 22% of women who told their employer they experienced pregnancy loss reported unfair treatment. 

Natalie Sutherland, co-host of podcast In/Fertility in the City, said employers should offer paid time off for employees who have had a miscarriage.  

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “A miscarriage is devastating and will have emotional as well as physical repercussions.  

“Acknowledging this is key, and enabling employees to have paid time off when they have a miscarriage, should be the norm.” 

Sutherland said having well-signposted pregnancy loss policies in place will encourage employees to get the support they need. 

She said: “This support should also include an audit of the individual’s workload, and employers would do well to consider a staggered return in those first weeks back.” 

Such policies should be inclusive and gender-neutral Sutherland added. 

She said: “Men or partners of those undergoing fertility treatment should be able to benefit from such policies equally as fertility affects both sexes and is not just a ‘woman’s issue’.  

“Properly considered fertility and pregnancy loss policies can be an invaluable recruitment and retention tool and their value in changing professional cultures for the better should not be underestimated.”  

Data analysis was powered by Women in Data with a team led by Taisiya Merkulova. A sample of 3540 was randomly selected from a pool of 24,193 respondents to the survey. The sample is targeting national representation and is nationally representative on gender, region and social grade.