Launching Retail inMotion's Fertility Policy last week was a very proud moment for me. When I broached the topic and showed the draft policy to RiM's Executive Team, I was truly touched by the immediate support it received. In fact, it was more than support; the policy and approach were highly encouraged and welcomed. I didn’t have to “convince” one single member of the Executive Team.
I want to be transparent with my “why” behind advocating for RiM to launch a Fertility Policy. I hope that, by being transparent, I will achieve several things:
- Most importantly, that everyone in RiM will know that they are in a “safe space” when it comes to this vulnerable topic, that they can access true understanding and support in an environment that, for many employees, is a fertility minefield.
- That everyone in RiM, regardless of their personal circumstances, can see -by our approach to this topic- the importance that we, as a company and as human leaders, put on supporting them with their personal challenges. Many of our team members will be able to give you anecdotal examples of how the company has gone above and beyond supporting them with private issues, but this policy makes our private approach very public.
- To start a conversation with other companies about the complexities that employees with fertility issues face, and how simple it can be to support them. Leaders need to know how good for business that support can be.
Research demonstrates how good for business that support can be. Levels of distress associated with fertility treatment are reduced and employees are more likely to be productive and remain in work.
In a recent study, 29% of women surveyed had to resign from their jobs due to difficulty working through fertility treatments. However, it’s a topic that can make both the employee and the manager extremely uncomfortable, leading to poor communication and understanding on both parts. Being open, intentional, and transparent about the support an employee can expect may lead to reduced discomfort.
To illuminate further, let me tell you about my own experience of having a career in parallel to a fertility journey.
During my fertility struggles in my previous company, I had two male managers. Maybe it will be surprising to you that it was male bosses that gave me more support than I would have even thought of asking for. No appointment was a problem, no time off was an issue. When on one IVF cycle my immune system was being suppressed, my boss wouldn’t hear of me coming into the office and insisted on home working for that month (this was long before remote working was common). When I finally got pregnant, I had severe hyperemesis gravidarum (sickness) that required some time in the hospital. I felt terrible as I had hoped I would be fighting fit and could pay them back for their support during my pregnancy, but that was not to be. Regardless, they continued to support me over and above any of my expectations.
What did they get in return for all this support? I was loyal, committed, worked at any time of the night, day, or weekend that I was well enough. I kept growing my knowledge, experience, and responsibility. I was open with them, so that they always knew what to expect, shared detail to the level that both of us were comfortable with. After every failed IVF attempt, I threw myself into work, as I love my job, and it was a huge source of mental comfort.
I truly believe that without their support, Sophie, my daughter wouldn’t be here. It gave me the energy to do two extra IVF cycles, which, if I was working in a more difficult environment, I may not have done.
For the employee, infertility is costly, stressful, time-consuming, and mostly invisible. You are not technically “sick”, there are often few symptoms, yet you feel broken. Keeping it secret, juggling appointments, pretending all is fine, can bring a brittleness to your energy. Trying to use your precious holiday time for longer or more invasive procedures leaves little time to get away from it all. This brokenness and secret-keeping bring about feelings of shame and exhaustion.
At RiM, we hope, with our fertility policy, to publicly alleviate many of these concerns, thereby reducing stress, exhaustion, and feelings of shame. The policy covers our male and female colleagues, as we understand the stress that the partner can also suffer. It shouldn’t need to be said, but for the purposes of educating other companies, I will also make clear that single employees or any type of family structure can avail of our policy and support.
We have committed to:
- giving continued support regardless of the length of treatment or fertility journey
- promotional opportunities and salary reviews will not be affected by availing of this policy
- extreme privacy measures around the recording of absence and limiting who needs to be notified
- unlimited leave allowance for procedures and appointments
If you are ready to consider introducing a fertility policy into your own company, we, at RiM, would like to support you.
Please reach out to our HR Team for a copy of the RiM Fertility policy, which can be used as a guide or foundation. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them.