‘Kiss promotion goodbye’: Women, fertility treatment, and the near impossible task of work

One in five workers who have undergone fertility treatment quit their job because of the way they were treated.

‘Kiss promotion goodbye’: Women, fertility treatment, and the near impossible task of work
woman on a hamster wheel
There’s a severe lack of support (Picture: Getty Images/fStop)

‘I’d got my period that morning,’ remembers Gabriella Griffith, who had been hoping she was pregnant after undergoing IVF treatment.

‘And that time, I’d fallen hook, line, and sinker for the dream. At a week late, I had thought I was finally pregnant. I’d even noticed some of the early symptoms everyone talks about.

‘But earlier that day, as I reached for the Tampax, my dream had crumbled.’

One of the hardest things about this moment, was that she was at work and had to deal with the emotional pain surrounded by colleagues and her office environment.

‘No one wants to be in this situation in a workplace. I’m a professional, I’m good at my job. But try as I might, it’s near impossible to leave fertility struggles at the door,’ she adds, as previously told to Metro.co.uk.

The long-standing issue of women dealing with fertility problems while working now has new research behind it. A recently study found one in five workers who have undergone fertility treatment quit their job because of the way they were treated at work during the process.

3.5 million people in the UK are affected by infertility, so Totaljobs and the Fawcett Society, are calling on UK workplaces to become ‘fertility-friendly’.

The research, which surveyed 2,000 people in the UK who have undergone fertility treatment in the past five years, found that a further third had considered leaving their place of work due to how they were treated by their employer.

gabriella griffith
Working while undergoing IVF was emotionally damaging (Picture: Gabriella Griffith)

Psychological challenges were uncovered, as 16% said their mental health had been impacted while struggling with fertility issues at work. When looking at single women and women on low incomes, this rises to 24%.

Gabriella’s mental health suffered, as she recalls: ‘Baby showers, once a great excuse to spend an hour eating pastel-coloured cupcakes and talking about celebrity baby names, have become unbearable.

‘The weight of infertility means there are days when I just don’t want to get out of bed, let alone drag myself to work and act like everything is fine.

‘The emotional side isn’t even the most difficult bit.

‘When infertility leads to treatment, often IVF, balancing work and appointments becomes tricky.

‘Inevitably women in this position have to make a difficult choice. They can either talk to management about their situation, or make a string of increasingly imaginative excuses.

‘After all, it seems to go against perceived wisdom to tell a boss you’re trying for a baby – you might kiss goodbye to those promotions for a start. But you’re also revealing something deeply personal to a colleague.’

Over two-fifths of workers who have gone through fertility treatment in the last five years said it was hard to juggle treatment alongside work.

42% said that undergoing fertility treatment temporarily slowed down their professional development. 

There’s a lack of support available, with 43% stating they had faced negative comments and attitudes from fellow colleagues. 

11% believe their fertility treatments have negatively impacted on relationships with their colleagues.

Jane Lorigan, managing Director Totaljobs Group said: ‘Getting treatment for fertility issues impacts every aspect of someone’s life.

‘Starting conversations at work can be sensitive to broach but employers that offer comprehensive and compassionate support can not only make the process easier to deal with but foster a better workplace for everyone.

‘The subject of infertility remains a sensitive one, and the research shows us that a lack of awareness is one of the root causes behind employers not taking action or offering more support.’

The study shows most people don’t tell their boss or HR department when they go through this due to the attached stigma, preferring to take sick leave or even unpaid leave when needing to go to fertility related appointments.

61% say that fertility benefits make an employer more attractive, which would also make it feel safer to disclose this issue.

As many as 83% want the same level of support given to those who are expecting or already have a child.

Many people impacted by fertility issues feel let down by their workplaces, and it’s up to work cultures to shift so support is received by those who need it.

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