Kellogg’s to offer paid leave for women undergoing fertility treatment, pregnancy loss and the menopause
Is the tide finally turning and employers beginning to realise that they need to support their workers who are going through infertility treatment, pregnancy loss and the menopause? Maybe.
Kellogg’s, the cereal giant, who employ some 1,500 employees in the UK, recently announced the introduction of new workplace policies that will offer support to employees and paid leave for women in this regard. They are one of the first employers to recognise that these are important issues that need empathetic and effective support from managers, and I must say it is a breath of fresh air to see an employer taking positive, proactive steps beyond those required to meet their statutory obligations.
Menopause, pregnancy loss and infertility can be devastating for those affected, not only physically but mentally the emotional toll can be enormous. The stress and anxiety though of trying to deal with these is often compounded by an employer’s general lack of understanding of what the employee is going through and their inability to adapt their working practices to alleviate that stress.
I remember when I had IVF treatment, how difficult and draining it was not to be able to manage my employer’s expectations to achieve high prescribed chargeable hours’ target whilst I was trying to have treatment (I was working for a US law firm in Boston at the time). However, when I finally felt I had no choice and explained what I was going through with my manager, they were brilliant and organised for me to have paid time off in order that I could have my IVF treatment without having to worry about work as well. Not having to deal with the stress of work meant that I could focus on my treatment, alleviate some of my stress and which meant that I was in the best place to optimise the chances of the treatment being successful. It worked and on my last cycle while on leave, I got pregnant. I truly believe my employer’s sympathetic approach by allowing me leave was instrumental, and the bonus was that it was paid.
So, I was very pleased to read about the new support Kellogg’s is providing to its employees. In summary their initiatives are as follows:
Kellogg’s said that it is committed to training its managers on the menopause to deepen understanding on the subject and to support anyone affected, with workplace adjustments such as increased flexible working and occupational health support. Claims related to discrimination connected with menopause often fall under disability discrimination law, but there is little understanding of what the symptoms of menopause are and therefore how they can be accommodated by managers. As a result, I have noticed that menopause discrimination claims are increasing. By giving training, that at least means that there is a chance that effective reasonable adjustments can be made for affected employees.
The company will give paid leave for pregnancy loss, without the need for a doctor’s note, to impacted employees including partners and those using a surrogate mother. Many women have miscarriages but often feel they have no choice but to go into work, often immediately afterwards. Bereavement leave for miscarriages gives any parent the chance to grieve and get better before tackling the pressures of work again.
To support those that go through infertility treatment, Kellogg’s will give employees three blocks of leave each year as well as access to a private space to administer treatment, if necessary. As I have already stated, having paid time off was instrumental in my successful treatment and I think that this will be of great benefit to anyone going through any sort of infertility treatment.
It would be great if other employers could follow in Kellogg’s footsteps and offer paid leave for women going through these difficult experiences. Too often we have to give advice to those who have been treated unsympathetically and unfavourably, or who are stigmatised because they are suffering these conditions or undergoing treatment. Increasing awareness and training will help all employees and make a much happier workplace, I hope.
This blog is written by Anita Vadgama, Legal Director for didlaw.