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Insights What do we do when a colleague goes through fertility treatment?

Meet Sarah, bid and strategy lead at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group. She's passionate about Engineering Net Zero projects, ensuring everyone understands the challenges and solutions needed to get to a Net Zero energy solution. Sarah loves "working at the organization and delivering the right engineering projects through great people."

Sarah smiling towards the camera

Sarah, what prompted you to start the new employee network?

Infertility affects around 3.5 million men and women across the UK, and that's about one in six of all couples. There are also a growing number of same-sex couples and single women becoming parents through fertility treatment. But, when you're experiencing it, it can feel like you're the only one and can be one of the most isolating experiences of your life. 

People may not always feel comfortable talking about it in the workplace. It can be challenging, having a profound effect on work, physical and mental well-being. With this in mind, we decided to take some positive steps to address the challenges of talking about infertility at work and improve support for employees going through fertility treatment.

What was your personal experience?

When I was going through IVF treatment, I struggled to talk to anyone about it without crying. Personally, I would have preferred not to talk about it at work. I could hide all the daily injections and not let them interfere with my work. However, because of the number of appointments needed at times that you can't control, I had to talk to my line manager. I wish the guidance that has been published today had been available then to help with those conversations.

What will the support look like?

There are two sources, the Fertility Journeys Yammer group and Fertility Treatment and the Workplace Guidance. The organization has been keen to launch and support them. As highlighted in our UK&E Equality, Diversity & Equality (ED&I) programme, creating and maintaining an inclusive culture is essential.

How will the Yammer group work?

Fertility Journeys is a closed Yammer group that provides peer-to-peer support for employees affected by infertility. It’s a safe space to engage with other people who are either going through or have been through fertility treatment. We hope this will benefit anyone who wants to ask for advice, talk to someone with a shared experience or simply share their story.  The members on the group span a wide variety of experiences. 

How can the guidance document be used?

The guidance document is designed to raise awareness amongst our employees and managers about what it might be like going through fertility treatment as either the birth parent or partner. It gives information about the potential physical and emotional impact and the type of help and support we can provide at work.  We encourage anyone who is thinking about fertility treatment to point their line manager towards this document prior to a discussion meeting. 

How can employees start benefitting from this great initiative?

For employees going through fertility treatment, try joining the group. It's a closed group, and all posts are treated in confidence. If you're a line manager with someone in your team going through fertility treatment, ask HR to let you have the guidance. We hope it will give you understanding and insight into how we can provide the best support.