When I used to hear the word ‘wellbeing’, I would picture someone meditating. I can’t remember why I did – and then I searched images that have been used to illustrate ‘wellbeing in the workplace’ and up came images of people meditating on their desks or sitting on a gym ball with their laptop.
I never thought of fertility as a wellbeing issue until I attended a discussion last December on how employers can create a supportive and inclusive environment for employees wanting to start or expand their family.
Around 60 people at the London office of Sidley Austin listened to heartbreaking stories of the battles that some lawyers have fought to have a baby, as well as the importance of workplace fertility policies and language.
The discussion was co-chaired by Natalie Sutherland, a partner and fertility officer at family boutique Burgess Mee, and Somaya Ouazzani, chief executive of Mimoza Fleur, a legal recruitment business.
So it was incredible to hear that 120 people attended a follow-up discussion they co-chaired last month at the London office of Stephenson Harwood.
‘Since the first event there has generally been a much better acceptance of having this conversation at work,’ Ouazzani told me over a Zoom call. ‘We have broken that taboo now.’
It’s early days and firms are still ‘feeling their way through’. But the signs are encouraging.
‘We have had firms who have asked “Can we look at your [fertility] policy?’ says Sutherland, who was appointed Burgess Mee’s fertility officer in February. Burgess Mee wanted its staff to know they were supported and did not want them to feel they had to compromise their career or family for the other.
‘The last two events have had such fantastic reviews. There is a thirst for it. If we put on another one, we could probably get 200 people. Sixty in December, 120 in July. It shows there is an appetite for the conversation and real engagement.’
They hope to put on more events but need event space. Law firms, if you’re listening…