On Thursday 6th July, we were very kindly welcomed into the beautiful office of Iris London, to host our first FMAW members roundtable event. We were excited to bring together some of our trailblazing member organisations, the first of many to have joined our membership, and set out on their journeys to becoming Fertility Friendly.
During the course of the afternoon we heard from three of our member organisations who have already worked with us to achieve their Fertility Friendly accreditation. Kelly-Anne Morris and Liz Brand, the fertility leads at Cadent Gas, took to the stage first to share the work they have been doing to create cultural change within a male dominated environment.
Like many of our members, Cadent’s journey began when Kelly-Anne and Liz reached out for support at the start of their own fertility treatment and realised the consistency of support they felt was required wasn’t there within their organisation.
Together they pulled together key information and figures to outline the number of employees likely to be affected by Fertility Treatment whilst at work, and they put together a proposal for what they wanted to see implemented. It was amazing to hear that once the wheels were in motion, they were granted everything they proposed, including unlimited time off for treatment for employees!
Cadent received their Fertility Friendly accreditation in March 2023, and we are so proud of all Cadent has achieved. Hearing first-hand what they had done and how it was communicated to their employees in a fun and inclusive way, was a real inspiration to others in the room who are at an earlier stage in their journey.
We also heard from Natalie Sutherland, Partner at Burgess Mee Family Law, who were the very first of our members to gain their Fertility Friendly Accreditation. Natalie took us on a journey from her own miscarriage and secondary infertility story, to becoming the Burgess Mee Fertility Officer, hosting cross industry awareness raising events, winning an award for her podcast InFertility in the City, and now being in talks with a law firm in Hong Kong, taking this conversation worldwide!
Natalie shared some of the practicalities of her role as a Fertility Officer, including how the additional time it has added to her role is variable depending on how many people require her support. She echoed that training being available for managers is important, so that the responsibility of support doesn’t fall to one person, and they are able to signpost their colleague to another person or resource to protect their own mental wellbeing.
Finally, we heard from Jo Sloman from Cornwall Council, the first local authority to receive a Fertility Friendly Accreditation. She wasn’t in an HR role when her work on the topic began, so Cornwall Council’s work to become Fertility Friendly has been very much employee led, in collaboration with HR.
The employee experience was at the centre, and when writing their policy and guidance documents they found it was important to be context specific. For instance, Cornwall’s geography means that the nearest fertility clinic is at least an hour away, so for those having treatment and needing multiple scans and blood tests it could mean days out of work, rather than hours for appointments.
Jo says she was given “carte blanche” to ask for what she felt was required, and her requests for both unlimited time-off for treatment, and no requirement for employees to have worked in the organisation for a specific length of time were all granted.
We were thrilled to also be joined by Julianne Boutaleb from Parenthood in Mind who is FMAW’s resident perinatal psychologist. Julianne spoke about the importance of providing not only practical support, such as time off for treatment, but emotional support too.
A big takeaway from the day was that everyone can’t be expected to know everything, and people working in these supportive roles need to protect their own mental wellbeing. What is most important is that everyone knows where to find information they need in order to be able to provide support when the need arises.
Becky discussed how this is reflected in some tweaks to our accreditation criteria, whereby instead of looking at 80% of managers having completed everything, we will be moving towards ensuring all managers having the information readily available and knowing how to access it when needed, as part of the important manager support pathway.
Employees also need to know the support is there for them, and so making the support visible, such as internal sharing of lunch and learns, making it easy to book time off with systems such as specific HR codes for fertility treatment, and making fertility policy easily accessible, are very important to successful implementation.
Throughout the afternoon we also had the opportunity to break out and discuss awareness raising and training, implementing policy and guidance, and building internal peer-to-peer support in more detail, with some really useful insights and best practice being shared amongst our members.
We’d like to thank you everyone so much for coming together for such a valuable afternoon. We have had some really wonderful feedback, and many requesting that next time we schedule in even more time for these important discussions to take place which we will definitely factor in. Thank you once again to Iris London for being such wonderful hosts. We will be hosting another similar event in the near future!
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a member of Fertility Matters at Work and becoming a Fertility Friendly Accredited organisation, contact us here.