Managing Director of Energy Customer Solutions, SSE
Extending family leave policies to include fertility treatment and pregnancy loss is welcomed as another step forward by employees.
Many companies are talking about boosting employee support — but some are doing more than others. Potential employees should check what individual employers offer. What are the most forward-looking employers offering today?
Family support for all
Nikki Flanders, Managing Director of Energy Customer Solutions at energy company SSE says: “We enhanced our family leave policies in October 2022 to support employees throughout the journey to becoming a parent and beyond — whatever their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or family status.”
“All prospective and new parents face challenges in balancing parenthood and their careers, so it’s important for us to support our people on this journey.” The company’s enhanced family leave offerings now include a range of benefits.
This offers an additional seven weeks’ paid leave for partners of parents who take maternity or adoption leave. Together with paternity leave, this gives partners nine weeks of paid leave.
Fertility treatment leave
Employees are now entitled to:
- Two weeks of leave at full pay every 12 months if they are undergoing an assisted conception procedure.
- Two days of leave at full pay every 12 months if they don’t qualify for the two weeks’ leave but their partner — or a surrogate birth parent who is helping them to have a baby — is undergoing an assisted conception procedure.
Flanders says: “Starting a family through fertility treatment can be a long and difficult process. The procedures or medication can make you feel unwell, and there’s the emotional impact. I’m delighted that we’re now supporting employees through this.”
Pregnancy loss leave
“Pregnancy loss is a difficult and painful experience and more common than people may think,” says Flanders. “Employees who suffer a pregnancy loss, including partners and those having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement, can now avail of two weeks of leave at full pay and access to counselling services.”
Management support is essential for policies like these, says Flanders. “Compassion, confidentiality and understanding are key. All our managers know about these policies and are ready to support their teams.”
These new and enhanced policies are another step in the right direction.
What employees think
“Employees have told us that this is a step forward in tackling gender role stereotypes and reflects today’s society,” says Flanders. “These are personal issues that people may not always be comfortable sharing, but I’m heartened by the open conversations that have been taking place around this.”
The energy company has found its existing employee voice channels valuable in understanding how to support employees through pregnancy loss and fertility treatment. Flanders says: “Some of our ‘Belonging at SSE’ groups such as ‘Working Parents’ and ‘Health and Wellbeing’ have been a fantastic source of feedback.”
“Why have we increased employee benefits around this? It’s the right thing to do, and it shows we are here for employees during painful, as well as good times,” says Flanders. “Our people are at the heart of our business. An inclusive culture is as much about how we all act — as the policies we have in place. These new and enhanced policies are another step in the right direction.”
Other employee wellbeing initiatives
The company sees safety as its number one value, and employee wellbeing is central to that. It offers employee assistance programmes, financial planning assistance and wellbeing events and festival weeks focusing on mental health, wellbeing and benefits available to employees.
There are also ‘Belonging Groups,’ set up by employees, which encourages the company to make positive change. The groups cover gender balance, health and wellbeing, menopause, disability, neurodiversity and chronic health issues.
“I’m a member of the SSE Menopause Community and the support that we offer each other is just brilliant,” Flanders says. “There’s a strong and genuine focus on inclusion and wellbeing at our company. It’s not just about policies. We are always looking at practical ways to improve employee support.”