12 March 2021
Anchor Hanover broadens its wellbeing offer for colleagues
Vikki Wells is a Category Manager at Anchor Hanover and like most people, Vikki and her husband Luke assumed they would be able to have children naturally and planned to enjoy life as a couple for a few years after their wedding before starting a family. Once they decided the time was right for them, they discovered they had been naïve to assume things would be so easy.
After a few years of trying to conceive they were referred to the fertility department at their local hospital. Vikki was devastated to learn that she had low AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) which meant she had a low ovarian reserve (number of eggs) and seriously reduced chances of conceiving naturally.
I felt so guilty that I was the one stopping my husband from becoming the amazing dad I knew he would be.
She started a specialised approach to IVF in January 2018 and over a period of 13 months, underwent seven rounds of IVF. Heart-breakingly, each was unsuccessful. The process was extremely emotionally challenging, and impacted every aspect of Vikki’s life, including her work and relationship with family and friends.
Support in the workplace
When struggling with the emotional toll of fertility journeys, it is important that people receive the right support from their employer. Vicky was fortunate to have had strong support from her employer, Anchor Hanover, throughout.
For anyone going through fertility treatment, flexibility and support from their employer is vital. I was very lucky that I was able to work around my appointments by my manager at Anchor Hanover allowing my start and finish times to be flexible. Another thing I was grateful for, was that colleagues didn’t pry as to where I was when I was unavailable at certain times and for me this was so important.
Providing support and raising awareness of fertility struggles in the workplace is part of Anchor Hanover’s wellbeing strategy. They have policies in place around leave for fertility treatment, and support available for colleagues, including access to a confidential 24/7 Colleague Assistance Programme helpline.
Anchor Hanover has also recently started offering services through Fertifa, a digital fertility clinic that can support colleagues whether they need help to grow their family, are currently pregnant or want to be proactive about their fertility health. Colleagues will be able to access a number of services, including a dedicated Fertility Advisor, fertility investigations (including at-home testing), discounted fertility treatment at leading fertility clinics, adoption and surrogacy support and advice, and fertility support for LGBTQ+ couples.
Vikki says “I’m really proud that Anchor Hanover has decided to launch this support and awareness. There is so much to learn and research when you are going through this journey and it can be difficult to know where to start so having access to Fertifa will be a huge benefit to anyone who is struggling with infertility.”
Before our first round, I had thought a lot about the physical side; the number of injections I would have daily, the additional medication, the anaesthetic and surgical procedure to collect eggs; but having now been through the process I realise that those things really sit in the background compared to the emotional turmoil you go through.
It can make you hyper-sensitive and emotional; a pregnancy announcement can make you crumble. Undergoing treatment is a huge emotional turmoil and some days you will struggle with that; the drugs can make you tired, emotional and bad tempered and sometimes that means our colleagues will see a different side to us and wonder what’s going on.
Vikki kept her struggles secret from her family for seven years, which made the process even harder.
The more I didn’t talk about it, the more shame I felt, and it is absolutely not acceptable for us to feel shame for something we have no control over. Finally telling our families was the best thing we could have done. A weight really was lifted, and I felt like I wasn’t living a secret anymore.
Looking to the future
After the seventh unsuccessful round of IVF, Vikki and Luke decided to take a much-needed break, to process their emotions and allow her body to recover. Finally having some space to think and reflect allowed the couple to realise that they had got caught up in the process and lost sight of what it was they really wanted – a family and there were other ways of becoming a family. Vikki and Luke had both been thinking about the possibility of adoption but had struggled to bring it up, in case it wasn’t what the other wanted.
When we talked it through, we realised that what we really wanted was a family. We both felt that biology wasn’t the priority for us. I wasn’t craving pregnancy or giving birth, I just wanted a family, we both did. Adoption is something that can fulfil that wish we have and means we can do something so positive for a child or children that need a loving family.
Vikki and Luke started the process of adoption last January and have just been approved as adoptive parents. They are now waiting to be matched with a child or children and are incredibly excited.
Anchor Hanover is fully supportive of colleagues going through adoption process. Eligible colleagues are entitled to pre-adoption and post-adoption leave and pay. Shared parental leave is also available, with the balance of adoption leave and statutory pay shared with their partner following their return to work.