Infertility does not discriminate; it could affect anyone of us even those who have conceived without medical intervention previously.
A fertility policy in every school would work towards serving both male and female teachers who are experiencing infertility, so that they feel understood. A policy could also be a way to tackle the ignorance of this often taboo subject.
It’s time that school leaders realise that the well-being of their staff is strategically important to the success of the ‘business’.
With a fertility policy in place:
1. Headteachers will be viewed as the responsible employer who takes the health of employees seriously meaning there is a better chance they will attract and retain the best staff
2. Staff may respond better to the headteacher, as they feel understood/ seen
3. It is likely that colleagues will want to remain loyal to the school after support and compassion through a difficult time
4. Employees may work diligently for school outcomes after support from the senior leadership team
5. There will be the feeling of a better work environment
6. There will be less chance of long term staff absences for employees who are undergoing treatment
7. Staff can be more honest with the headteacher about treatment and feel that they can approach them
8. It is less likely that employees will have suicidal feelings and feelings of distress
9. It will be less likely that an employee struggling with fertility will want a career break to focus on treatment
10. This provides an opportunity to develop an awareness of infertility through training aimed at department and senior leaders so that they are better prepared at supporting colleagues
A survey by Fertility Network UK, discovered that 77% of respondents were not supported by a fertility policy at work.
The study found that the majority of respondents used annual leave, sick leave and flexible working to attend appointments, and others ‘made up the time’ they were absent whilst undergoing fertility treatment.
All of which (apart from sick leave) are unrealistic for teachers.
The main difference for teachers is that they are unable to use annual leave for fertility treatment unless they are able to arrange this within their 6 weeks holiday. The issue with this, however, is that the summer months might be a while away and to wait could cause more distress to the teacher who has long tried to start their family.
Flexi working is non existent for teachers due to the nature of the job along with making up the time.
Less than 20% of respondents in this study received paid leave for treatment which is shocking when you consider the amount of women who would have had to forgo wages to attend the endless fertility appointments.
I spoke with a senior leader of a school that currently does not have a fertility treatment policy in place. This Deputy headteacher, however, praised their employer for how supportive they were towards staff undergoing fertility treatment.
They told me that the headteacher had witnessed the psychological distress of a relative close to them living through infertility which impacted on their understanding of the need for appropriate support through treatment.
To have a supportive employer is great, nonetheless, an official fertility treatment policy guarantees fair treatment to all; it eliminates bias.