Co-op launches leading new colleague fertility treatment policy


  • New enhanced policy supports individuals, partners and surrogates receiving and recovering from the physical and psychological effects of fertility treatment.
  • New research from Co-op finds over two fifths (45%) of people currently undertaking or have undertaken fertility treatment whilst working didn’t talk to their manager beforehand about embarking on the treatment.
  • Over four fifths (81%) of people who have had some direct, or indirect, experience with IVF treatment whilst working say a fertility treatment policy at work should be a legal requirement for all UK companies.
  • Fertility policy forms part of Co-op wider support for colleagues’ health and wellbeing, joining existing policies for menopause, pregnancy loss, and parental leave.

Co-op has today launched a new leading colleague fertility treatment policy, at the start of National Fertility Week (31st October – 4th November).

The policy, part of Co-op’s commitment to create a truly inclusive workplace and deliver a fairer world for colleagues, provides flexible unrestricted paid time off for colleagues to attend medical appointments whilst undergoing fertility treatment, including colleagues using a surrogate.

Importantly it also recognises the need for support, with paid time off for colleagues whose partners are undergoing fertility treatment, to enable colleagues to support their partner through treatment, regardless of how long they have worked for Co-op or the number of hours they work.

Endorsed by charities Fertility Matters at Work and Surrogacy UK, and working with Co-op’s unions, the enhanced policy provides a range of flexible support, including:

  • Colleagues to get paid time off if they’re undergoing treatment themselves, including if they are a surrogate. This time off is flexible and unrestricted as we don’t assume to know what people will need.
  • Partners of colleagues undergoing treatment to get paid time off, to enable them to accompany them to appointments (partners include same sex partners/intended parents/colleagues conceiving through a surrogate). The guide is paid leave for up to ten appointments per cycle for up to three cycles of fertility treatment.
  • An inclusive policy, which recognises all different types of family.
  • Assurance that anyone can access this policy – it doesn’t matter how long a colleague has worked for Co-op or how many hours they work
  • A section covering embryo transfer and pregnancy rights including a connection to our pregnancy loss policy if embryo transfer is not successful
  • Access to a range of support including counselling and wellbeing support through lifeworks and YuDoctor; support with exercise, nutrition and making healthy lifestyle choices through our Wellbeing hub and YuLife offer and information to support financial wellbeing including Salary FinanceWagestream and Credit Unions

Shirine Khoury-Haq, Chief Executive of the Co-op, said: “It’s incredibly difficult to navigate through fertility treatment while balancing work and the wider impact it has on your life. 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 on launching a fertility policy and supporting our colleagues at a time when they need it most.”

Co-op is making the policy publicly available to not only its own help colleagues get the support they need, but to also encourage other companies to introduce dedicated fertility treatment polices to ensure people across the UK workforce receive adequate support with fertility.

Insight from new research commissioned by Co-op with YouGov, into fertility treatment in the workplace has found that over two fifths (45%) of people who are currently undertaking, or have previously undertaken fertility treatment whilst working, didn’t talk with to their manager before embarking on fertility treatment.

When asked why they didn’t speak to their workplace about it, over half of this audience (51%) said it was too personal to talk about, two fifths (42%) didn’t feel comfortable raising it, just over a third (35%) felt unable to talk to openly and honestly about their fertility struggles and worryingly over a fifth (21%) thought it might negatively impact their career.

To address this, Co-op is also set to launch a specific guide for managers to help provide appropriate practical and emotional support to those going through fertility treatment. The guide, which will be made publicly available by Co-op, comes as Co-op’s research found that 65% of people who managed or are managing someone going through IVF treatment whilst working say they have not received training on how to support colleagues undergoing fertility treatment. And 85% of those managers agreed more training was needed to provide better support for colleagues going through fertility treatment in the workplace.

Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, added: “I really welcome the Co-op’s leading response to fertility support for employees. 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.”

Claire Ingle, Co-Founder of Fertility Matters at Work comments: “It is inspiring when organisations such as the Co-op recognise the need to support conversations such as this one. and we often find it is often personal struggles that become the motivator to do so as outlined by Shirine, the CEO. Policies are a great starting point to get the ball rolling and signal to people in the organisation that their struggles are valid but there is more we can do to see significant cultural change in this arena to really make a difference for those who are faced with fertility struggles.”

Sarah Jones, Head of Surrogacy at Surrogacy UK said: “It is wonderful to see Co-op launch such an inclusive fertility policy which takes into consideration the specific needs of those creating their families through surrogacy. Undertaking a surrogacy journey, either as a surrogate or as an intended parent can genuinely be made all the more positive by having a supportive employer who understands their employee’s needs.”

You May Also Like

Levelling Up!

Homebaked Bakery – The power of communities to ‘level up’ for themselves The area around Anfield has a proud sense of...

read more