Fertility Treatment: Your Rights At Work

Fertility Week Logo

This Sunday will mark the end of Fertility Week 2018, Infertility is a medical condition which affects one in six couples in the UK.


Fertility Week is a chance to challenge the taboos and myths around infertility and raise awareness of the devastating physical, emotional and social impact fertility problems wreak.  There is a schedule of social media activity for Fertility Week which looks at, among other things, the IVF postcode lottery and fertility at work. 


Fertility Week started on Monday 29th October by highlighting the IVF postcode lottery.  This is a particular issue for Northern Ireland where IVF provision is below that in the rest of the UK.  In Northern Ireland only one cycle of IVF per couple is offered on the NHS.  Northern Ireland does not adhere to the NICE guidelines of three cycles which are currently available in Scotland.  Further information and an online petition to force a debate in Parliament for NHS funding for IVF is available at www.scream4IVF.org.


Employees have the right to absences from work for pre-natal and post-natal care and the right to request flexible working patterns but pre-conception care is not a statutory right so relatively few workplaces have formal policies in place to support people having treatment.


Couples undergoing fertility tests or any form of fertility treatment often have to attend fertility clinics and may have to do this over a period of months or even years.  An employee may need to take time off during their normal working hours to visit the clinic.  The emotional impact of infertility cannot be underestimated and going through tests and treatment is often a deeply traumatic process.


There is no automatic legal right to time off for infertility treatment but time off for medical appointments related to fertility should be treated in the same way as any other medical appointment under the employer’s policy.  If the employer refuses time off for such treatment an employee may be able to bring a claim for indirect sex discrimination to an industrial tribunal. 


Some people may require additional time off to recover from the effects of medical procedures and drug treatment and need to take sick leave.  Sickness absence related to treatment for infertility will be covered by the employer’s sickness absence scheme but any such absence should not count towards warnings or negative consequences.


Women who have had fertilised eggs implanted in their womb as part of IVF treatment will be regarded legally as being pregnant from the date of the implant and are protected from adverse treatment or dismissal under pregnancy legislation.  Such employees must notify their employer that they have reached this stage in their treatment.


It is important to keep an employer informed about ongoing treatment for infertility and reasons for absence but this does not give the employer the right to ask intrusive questions.


Find out more about Fertility Week and lots of other useful information at the NI Facebook page:  https://facebook.com/FNUKNI/


Check out the Fertility Week hashtags:

#YouAreNotAlone #FertilityWeek18 #Scream4IVF #IVFgoldstandard #LifeWithoutChildren #FertilityFellas #FertilityAtWork #FutureFertility