Life Baby Loss

Sunday 17 November 2019

Most women keep miscarriages and fertility problems secret from bosses

Stress and isolation left more than half suffering from mental health issues. Stock Image
Stress and isolation left more than half suffering from mental health issues. Stock Image
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Only half of professional women who suffered a miscarriage have opened up about their tragedy to their employer and nearly two-thirds would keep personal fertility issues a secret from their manager, a new survey reveals today.

The findings show how fertility problems, which could see a worker navigate the stress of going through IVF or adoption, remain largely a taboo in the workplace, said the research commissioned by LinkedIn.

Some seven in 10 workers would be more likely to open up about fertility issues at work if they were confident of the right environment.

But more than half of Irish professionals say their employer does not have these policies in place.

The wall of silence is strongly blamed on a lack of training for managers on how to handle conversations about topics such as miscarriage or IVF.

The research, which surveyed professionals and other employees with fertility issues, highlighted a range of barriers to why people do not feel encouraged to discuss challenges of trying to have a child with their employer.

It also exposed the potential resentment that can fester due to the lack of structures and understanding for co-workers struggling to conceive.

Just under half of those who experienced fertility issues did not want to discuss it with their manager because it felt too uncomfortable, with more than a fifth reluctant to open up in particular if their manager was of the opposite sex.

"A major factor for almost a third of these professionals is that they did not want to have to tell colleagues if their attempts to conceive were unsuccessful.

"Over a fifth of workers finding it difficult to conceive also worried that telling their manager about their plans for a baby would hinder their career prospects," said the research.

The stress and sense of isolation left more than half suffering from mental health issues.

Some 39pc said they were under financial strain and 51pc felt their work performance suffered.

Again, more than 50pc of professionals experiencing fertility issues said they needed to take time off work to attend medical appointments or to recover from them, with nearly a quarter also having to undergo counselling.

More than half were in workplaces where there was no human resources policy to support staff in this situation.

For example, women pursuing IVF are required to take injections at set times during the day, which make staying back late in the office or travelling for work an issue.

Despite this there is a lack of formal, flexible working options for employees opting for fertility treatment in many organisations.

Key priorities identified to provide the right environment include flexible working options for those undergoing fertility treatment, personal leave to recuperate or aid their partner during egg retrieval or insemination processes and paid time off for those undergoing fertility treatment.

Almost three-quarters of professionals believe that workers who do not have children enjoy better career success. One in seven professionals expects colleagues with fertility issues to work.

Irish Independent

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