Co-op, which employs over 60,000 people, has introduced a new policy allowing staff to take paid time off while receiving fertility treatments.
The policy was introduced after chief executive Shirine Khoury-Haq shared that she has undergone fertility treatments and wants to support employees undergoing the same process.
“It is incredibly difficult to navigate through fertility treatment while balancing work and the wider impact it has on your life,” Shirine says. “Sadly, in some cases, there is also the need to manage the physical and emotional impact of failed cycles and even pregnancy loss.
“The decision to discuss this with your employer is an incredibly difficult and personal one. However, by creating a supportive environment companies can go a long way in opening the conversation with colleagues and easing the stress that people in this situation often feel.
“Having gone through all of this myself, I felt very lucky to be in a supportive professional environment; however, this isn’t always the case for so many people. I feel very proud that the Co-op is leading the way in launching a fertility policy and supporting our colleagues at a time when they need it most.”
What Co-op’s fertility policy covers
Following other companies, including Centrica and NatWest, Co-op will now grant employees with paid leave to attend medical appointments for those undergoing fertility treatments, which is flexible and unrestricted.
The policy is open to all employees – including partners supporting someone going through fertility treatments – and treatment is not dependent on how long they have worked at the Co-op or the number of hours they’ve worked.
Charities such as Fertility Matters at Work and Surrogacy UK have supported the new policy, sharing that it will help create more inclusive cultures, as currently, employees do not have a legal right to take paid leave for fertility treatment.
“I really welcome the Co-op’s leading response to fertility support for employees,” says MP Caroline Nokes, chair of the women and equalities select committee said. “We all recognise the pressures placed on families and individuals going through fertility treatment, and time off to support partners is such an important step forward.
“But, crucially, we still talk too little about these sorts of issues and I hope the Co-op is also able to create the inclusive and supportive environment that is so desperately needed.”