Compassionate approach required for fertility in the workplace

Ivana Bacik TD
19 May 2021

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik will host an Instagram Live at 8pm this evening to highlight the need for paid leave for women who experience early miscarriage, and for employees receiving accessing reproductive healthcare. She will be joined by Síle Seoige, who has recently produced Deireadh Tochta a documentary on miscarriage and reproductive healthcare, Clodagh O’Hagan, who made the decision to have a baby on her own through IVF, and Claire Cullen Delsol from Terminations for Medical Reasons (TFMR).

Speaking in advance of the event, Senator Bacik said we must act urgently to embed compassionate principles in our workplace practices calling for support, not silence, for workers.

Senator Bacik said:

“I am delighted to be joined by Síle Seoige and Clodagh O’Hagan, both of whom have demonstrated great bravery in sharing their journeys and the impact on their personal and professional lives. Claire Cullen Delsol will share her story about the death of her daughter Alex and the 5 week gap between diagnosis and the death of her child where neither Claire nor her husband had any leave entitlement. Her courage in speaking out is gradually changing Ireland’s silence on reproductive health in the workplace. Many women – and men – are familiar with the devastation that results when a long-awaited and loved pregnancy results in an early miscarriage, but many women have to take annual leave to recover from the heartache and the physical effects of this experience. Women and men across the country invest time, money, hopes and dreams in IVF treatment, all while taking unpaid leave for extensive medical appointments and related treatments. Traditionally, these experiences are not shared in the workplace and thus they remain hidden; stigma means that reproductive health is not perceived by some as an appropriate topic for watercooler chat.

“Labour’s Reproductive Health Related Leave Bill would provide an entitlement to reproductive leave of up to 20 days for workers who suffer a miscarriage, and up to 10 days for those seeking treatments such as IVF. Aside from the practical supports for employees that this Bill would provide, it would also mark another step towards opening up conversations around reproductive health in Ireland, and information campaigns about the introduction of this new leave entitlement would encourage greater public awareness about this hidden issue.”

Síle Seoige said:

“I have had the unfortunate but common experience of miscarriage twice, and both times I returned to work immediately. I felt like I had no choice due to being self-employed. Both my miscarriages were silent and they are known as ‘missed miscarriages’ and effectively it means that your baby has stopped growing but you are not bleeding. I had never even heard of the term before it happened to me. The first time I found out that I had miscarried, I returned to work right away and I was on stage MC’ing an awards ceremony a few days later. I was so worried that I would start bleeding during the event and within two weeks of finding out that my baby had stopped growing, I had a D and C and again I was straight back to work the next day.

“The second time was a very similar situation as I felt I had no choice but to return to work right away, especially being freelance and I don’t like to ever cancel work unless it’s an emergency. But having a supportive system in place that would give you the choice to take time off work would be so welcome, as miscarriage can take its toll on you, physically, mentally and emotionally. If you were given the opportunity to take some time off work, I think that the acknowledgment in itself would help with the grieving process.”

Clodagh O’Hagan said:

“I decided to have a baby on my own when I was 41 following a routine blood check-up and a very frank conversation with my GP. The journey that led to my baby’s arrival can only be described as an emotional rollercoaster. From making the decision to have a baby on my own, to the heartbreak of finding out the harsh statistics around the likelihood of conception, and the culmination of 6 months and three cycles of treatment thank thankfully resulted with the birth of my baby boy a year ago this week. I was very lucky because I had a very understanding employer throughout this process. Without a doubt I feel this was an influencing factor in making the treatment a success, by enabling me to effectively manage the challenges and stresses throughout my fertility journey.”

Concluding, Senator Bacik said:

“Labour has a strong track record on championing women’s rights in the workplace. We put forward the first gender pay gap legislation; we have led on laws to tackle discrimination on grounds of gender, and to adopt gender quotas for Dáil elections; and we were at the forefront over campaigns for women’s right to access contraception and abortion. But there is still more work to do which is why Labour is proposing another measure to advance women’s employment rights, by providing for access to leave for matters relating to reproductive health.”

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