How do you support an employee who is undergoing IVF Treatment?

Fertility problems are estimated to affect one in six or one in seven couples in the UK – approximately 3.5 million people.

Around 60,000 fertility treatments are performed in UK licensed clinics per year, with the live birth rate after IVF about a quarter, according to latest figures (2010) from the HFEA.

As an employer, it can be a strain on the working day in the short and long term with planned and unplanned absences to manage due to the uncertain nature of what IVF entails and it can also be somewhat confusing as to how to manage this due to the fact that people undergoing IVF aren’t actually yet pregnant and are effectively going through the process of trying to start a family.

There is a fair amount to consider from a legal, moral, and ethical point of view … this month’s blog deals with how best to support your employees who are undergoing IVF procedures and how you can manage this process appropriately. 

Having IVF treatment

Trying for a family is such an exciting time in a couple’s relationship; however it can be laced with nerves and worry about what the future holds; but for those couples that have been told that the only way they will be able to have a family is via IVF Treatment it is a completely different ball game. 

It is the start of what could be a long and drawn-out period of time (over a period of years rather than months) and which is full of emotion and fear and also a lot of uncertainty. There are relationship worries, money worries, worries about what will happen if they do become pregnant, worries about what will happen if the treatment does not work and also worries about whether their employers will look at their situation in a fair and supportive way. So, by considering these possibilities it can help reassure them and will also give you a head start in managing the whole process consistently and as a fair employer.

What are the employees’ rights from a legal perspective? 

Employees who are undergoing IVF Treatment have all the same pregnancy and maternity rights as non-IVF pregnancies.

However, there is no legal right for time off work for IVF treatment or related sickness. But as an employer you should treat IVF appointments and any sickness related to the IVF Treatment the same as any other medical appointment or sickness. 

If an employee comes to you and advises you that they will be undergoing IVF treatment there are ways in which you could manage this via:

  • Flexible working
  • Paid time off, unpaid time off or holiday
  • Additional company support such as half of the time given to the employee and the other half taken from the employees annual leave

It is very important that you remain fair so as to ensure that the employee is not or does not feel discriminated against. 

When does an Employee have pregnancy protection rights?

An employee will have pregnancy rights once they have had the last part of the IVF process (‘embryo transfer’) and from that point where this is a possibility they might become pregnant. The embryo will have been placed in the womb therefore technically making the woman pregnant however there is a further 2 weeks to wait till the pregnancy can be confirmed. 

Employees do not have to tell their employer at this stage, but they may feel they wish to do so. It would be worthwhile from an employers point of view offering support at this point to reassure the employee on any worries they may have relating to their employment. 

An employer at this stage though needs to be mindful of the fact that as you know the employee might be pregnant, they are protected against unfair dismissal and unfair treatment related to the possible pregnancy.

Do businesses and organisations need a mandatory IVF Policy in place?

In a word no; however its always a good idea to manage these potential situations in a clear and concise manner so that there is no ambiguity which could give rise to a claim.

Other points to note

Employees who have undertaken IVF treatment have the same rights throughout their pregnancy and maternity as with non-IVF pregnancies.

If the IVF was unsuccessful employees will still be protected by law against pregnancy discrimination for 2 weeks after finding out an embryo transfer was unsuccessful. This is the worst outcome for the employee therefore ensuring that you are being empathetic at this stage will be very welcome. 

Do not forget that if your employee is the partner of the woman undergoing IVF treatment; he/she/they will be going through a similar emotional and mentally draining time. Offering support in the form of flexible working, paid/unpaid time off or holiday will go a long way in supporting them should they need it throughout the entire process. 

Not all IVF treatment will be undertaken by same sex couples; making a point in offering relevant and appropriate support in a non-discriminatory manner for the LGBTQ community will ensure that as an employer you will be respected and most importantly no claims for discrimination made against your organisation.

And finally…..

If you have staff who are undergoing IVF Treatment or about to embark on this emotional journey and you are still unsure about how to handle this matter from an HR perspective please get in touch.

Or you may wish to create an IVF Policy to ensure that you are supporting your employees throughout the process, and you want to do so in the most appropriate manner. 

Call Tara: 07983 936747


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *