Household brand Kellogg’s has recently announced that it will provide more support for staff experiencing menopause, pregnancy loss or fertility treatment.
Kellogg's has said that it wanted to break the silence on issues often not discussed in the workplace and will, under the plans, train managers on how to talk about the menopause and pregnancy loss, while leave for pregnancy loss will be given without the need for a doctor's note. It also intends to give staff going through fertility treatment three blocks of leave each year as well as access to a private space to administer treatment if necessary.
While we’ve seen some improvements in recent years and more people have spoken out about their own journey, each remains somewhat of a taboo topic – especially in the workplace.
However, the majority of society are set to experience at least one of these challenges within their lifetime. Stark data tell us that suicide rates in women of menopausal age have risen by 6% in the last 20 years (Office for National Statistics), while one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage (Tommy’s charity) and one in six couples have fertility issues (NHS).
So whether it’s experiencing miscarriage, fertility challenges or menopause personally, or supporting a loved one through this time, most of us will encounter the struggles associated with each.
While mental health and wellbeing is becoming more of a focus for businesses, and we have seen investment in this area across the board in recent years, and rightly so, the case for further support on menopause, pregnancy loss and fertility is still uncommon across the board.
Businesses need to start with an education piece and training for staff. It’s easy enough to come up with a line or two around support and paid leave into a policy and distribute across the company, however until your workforce is properly trained on how to spot signs of someone struggling and the places to signpost them to, and until colleagues feel that they are in a safe space to discuss any issues or concerns, support will not be utilised. The commercial impact is that engagement, sickness absence and retention all suffer.
The reality in many organisations is that people are often promoted to manager-level mainly because they excel within their field, rather than the fact they display leadership capability or potential. Often they’ve never received any training to help them navigate the complexities of managing individuals and teams. Layer over the increasing demand for greater efficiency, productivity share-holder value, it’s easy to see how we fall into the trap of managing our people as assets rather than humans, with difference needs, talents, backgrounds and life experiences.
Covid has highlighted to many the moral case for businesses to invest in supporting the health and wellbeing of their people, but there is a huge commercial advantage of this too. Empowering employees with practical tools, support and a safe environment to process, recover and heal, can increase loyalty and connection to the company, reduce absenteeism, improve talent acquisition and retention, and of course positively impact the bottom line.
Most women tend to return to work after a miscarriage and for some, the routine of work helps to manage the physical and emotional trauma, but for others who need to heal with their family, they should be given the time to do so. Not only for the sake of their mental and physical wellbeing but by allowing them time away from work, they are likely to be in a better place to operate when they return.
Likewise, women can often go undiagnosed as they struggle with menopause. You might find that colleagues are suffering with memory loss or anxiety, and if left undiagnosed, they are not getting the support that they need. They might take time off or their work is affected. However, if your organisation is properly educated on supporting the team, they will be able to signpost help, look after the individual and in turn, ensure staff are healthy, happy and able to work.
The latest move by Kellogg’s is a fantastic step in the right direction and we need to see more companies looking at their own policies to create a space that is safe and protected for all employees. At Head Resourcing, we offer leave and specialist support for pregnancy loss, menopause and fertility treatment and we are working towards better education in these areas for all our colleagues.
There is still much to be done in this area but if organisations begin with an open conversation and provide simple educational resources to break down the taboos, then actions can follow to better benefit individuals, teams and the whole organisation.