By Ami Thacker

Governance Manager

Finding Sanctuary

Did you know that around 1 in 6 people in the UK face fertility issues?

Despite such a high number, recent studies from the CIPD show that just 27% of employers have a fertility policy in place.

We’re working to change that.

With #Forward4Fertility the theme of this year’s National Fertility Awareness Week, we spoke to our Fertility Sanctuary network co-chairs to reflect on the action we’re taking to make a real difference, including launching our life-changing Pathway to Parenthood programme.

Meet our Fertility Ambassadors

Everyone’s fertility journey looks different – just ask Richard and Ami, Co-chairs and Fertility Ambassadors of our employee-led Fertility Sanctuary.

Both have different experiences when it comes to fertility, and have bravely shared their personal stories to help encourage others across the business to open up.

Ami's story

“Fertility is an all-consuming journey that impacts all aspects of life”, Ami says, “and because of that, I have a real passion for driving change”.

Ami got involved in Centrica’s Fertility Sanctuary when fertility issues started to affect herself and her family, and is working to ensure that other ‘Fertility Fighters’ at Centrica get the right support. “For me, it’s about raising awareness to increase levels of empathy across the business”.

And that’s exactly what Ami is doing, from helping to develop toolkits for managers to make difficult conversations easier to working with external parties to give our colleagues the tools and resources they need.


Richard's story

It took Richard and his wife a long time to have their first child, and after going through the pain of miscarriages, he soon came to understand the huge strain of juggling fertility issues with his career. “Being expected to turn up and be enthusiastic was mentally draining” he explains, “and it was a very isolating experience”.

That’s why, as soon as he joined Centrica, he got involved in the Fertility Sanctuary – helping to provide support to others and build a safe space for people to talk.


Growing your family AND your career

Like Richard and Ami say, the Fertility Sanctuary provides crucial support to colleagues at Centrica.

Whether that’s sharing resources, hosting informative webinars or collaborating with other networks and charities such as Fertility Network UK, the Sanctuary team are actively opening up the conversation across the business.

And with more and more colleagues building the confidence to speak up and seek support, the 200+ strong group has recently grown by 20%, showing that the network is going from strength to strength.

But we know that practical support is equally important – with 90% of employees across the UK prepared to leave their job for a company that offers fertility benefits, according to Fertifa. That’s why Centrica has a number of inclusive policies in place as part of the Healthcare Plan, including:

➔ Private healthcare: offering a fully funded healthcare plan to all colleagues, helping cover fertility costs

➔ GP 24/7: providing round the clock GP access so everyone can speak to a doctor whenever they need it

➔ Flexible working: giving colleagues the choice to work from home and shift their core hours with the FlexFirst app to better cope with treatment

➔ An additional 5 days leave: catering for IVF treatment

But perhaps the most impactful policy is Centrica’s new market leading Pathway to Parenthood initiative – providing colleagues with a lifetime allowance that has the potential to change lives.

Facilitating a Pathway to Parenthood

“Fertility issues have so many impacts besides health”, Richard says, “and because IVF is so expensive, the financial one is huge, especially in a cost of living crisis.”

For those not eligible for treatment on the NHS, going private can be expensive – one cycle of IVF can easily cost in excess of £5,000+, often putting a huge financial strain on families.

This is exactly why Centrica’s Pathway to Parenthood programme was created.

Developed with our amazing HR team, this landmark initiative offers a £15,000 lifetime allowance per couple or single member, covering everything from the cost of egg/sperm storage to fertility treatment, surrogacy and adoption. This allows every single one of our colleagues the best chance to build the family they want, whatever that looks like, whilst removing some of the financial burden.

A support package of this stature also has the power to affect wider change – setting a high standard for employers across the country.

Changing the national narrative

Breaking down barriers in other businesses is one of the Fertility Sanctuary’s big ambitions, and the network has been working hard to achieve it.

For example, the group recently started working with the not-for-profit Workplace Fertility Community, with Richard and Ami taking part in a webinar to share personal experiences and advocate better workplace policies.

Another example is our work with MP Nickie Aiken to develop the Fertility Workplace Pledge – and being one of the first businesses to publicly step forward and implement it. Made up of four commitments (accessible information, awareness at work, staff training and flexible working) for employers to sign up to, this Pledge was a huge milestone for the wider community.

“Having a clear statement like the Fertility Pledge is so important”, explains Richard, “as it reminds everyone that we’re a standalone cause”. Ami agrees, saying that “Centrica’s involvement marks us as a market leading organisation who support these issues”.


And the Sanctuary isn’t stopping there.

From hosting webinars to sharing personal stories, Richard, Ami and the team will be using this National Fertility Awareness Week to continue educating, celebrating and supporting colleagues affected by fertility challenges.

More than ever, the Sanctuary invites UK businesses to reflect on what they can do to make sure colleagues are supported through an often turbulent journey. Because with enough support, and enough open conversation, we can all move #Forward4Fertility.