General Mills is a global food business that produces and distributes to more than 100 brands on six continents. It employs more than 35,000 employees, with half located outside the USA and 240 in the UK and Ireland.
As part of its recognition that infertility can affect many people, the organisation expanded its UK and Ireland policies in July last year to allow for flexible working during rounds of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment, paid time off for appointments and support through its employee assistance programme (EAP). The policy applies if the employee or their partner are undergoing fertility treatment, regardless of service length.
The organisation made these amendments as it is always looking for ways to enhance support for employees, and create a more inclusive business and clear culture of belonging.
Victoria Street, HR director of Europe and Australia at General Mills, says: “We strive to be one of the most supportive employers in the food industry and are always looking for ways to cement this. We want to create a culture where people feel safe, and to do this, policies of this nature need to be introduced. Issues like fertility have in the past been perceived as taboo, and we want to break down those barriers and ensure that our employees are getting the support they need during every stage of their lives.”
The organisation acknowledges that infertility issues can also impact employees’ mental and physical health, which is why it has strived to create a culture where employees feel supported.
Regarding other employers that may wish to implement their own IVF support initiatives, Street recommends starting by listening to employees to find out what is important to them and what would make a difference.
“[They] need to create the environment and safe space where employees feel able to authentically bring their whole selves to work, especially when going through something like fertility treatment. Great managers and leaders are critical in creating this open and supportive culture on a daily basis, they are often the first person an employee turns to outside of HR,” she says.
Understanding that not every situation is the same is key, so organisations may want to create a policy or resources that are flexible and can adapt to each employee’s needs. Helping them to navigate and leverage third parties like EAPs and private medical providers may prove useful, while also signposting to charities that can offer expertise.