IVF, understanding your rights for taking time off work for treatment


15 May 2024

By Jemma Bennett

The HFEA (Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority) recorded that there has been a 10 percent increase in patients undergoing IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) treatment from 2021.  Undergoing IVF treatment can be a challenging and emotionally demanding process.  Trying to balance the demands of work with the requirement of IVF treatment adds an additional layer of complexity especially as it is something that some couples may not want to be open about with their employers.  However, it is essential to know that you have rights and entitlements to support you through this journey when it comes to your employment.  Here is a short guide to understanding your rights when taking time off work for IVF treatment:

Time off for medical appointments: often, IVF treatment comes with a lot of hospital appointments which include consultations, tests, scans and procedures necessary for the IVF process.  As an employee undergoing IVF treatment, you have the right to take time off work for medical appointments related to your treatment.

Statutory sick pay (SSP): if you need to take time off work due to illness related to your IVF treatment, you may be entitled to statutory sick pay from your employer.  SSP is payable for up to 28 weeks and provides financial support during periods of illness.

Annual leave and time off for dependents: if you require time off work for IVF treatment but are not eligible for SSP, you may be able to use your annual leave entitlement or request time off for dependents.  Your employer cannot unreasonably refuse such requests.

Flexible working arrangements: you have the right to request flexible working arrangements to accommodate your IVF treatment schedule.  This could include options such as adjusting your working hours, working remotely or taking unpaid leave for a specific period.

Medical evidence and notification: when requesting time off work for IVF treatment, you may be required to provide medical evidence such as appointment letters or doctor’s notes to support your absence.

Confidentiality and privacy: your employer has a legal obligation to maintain confidentiality regarding your IVF treatment and medical condition.  They should not disclose this information to colleagues or other parties without your consent.

Supportive workplace policies: some employers may have specific policies in place to support employers undergoing fertility treatment, including provisions for additional time off and access to counselling services.  Familiarise yourself with your company’s policies and support mechanisms.

Equality and discrimination: under the Equality Act 2010, you are protected against discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity, which includes undergoing fertility treatment such as IVF.  Your employer must ensure that you are not treated unfairly or discriminated against because of your IVF treatment.

Seeking legal advice: if you encounter any difficulties with your employer, consider seeking advice from a legal professional specialising in employment law.  They can provide guidance on your rights and options for recourse.

Selfcare and wellbeing: finally, remember to prioritise yourself during your IVF journey.  Taking time off work for treatment can be physically and emotionally draining, so be sure to seek support from friends and family as needed.

By understanding your rights and entitlements when taking time off for IVF treatment, you can navigate this challenging journey with confidence and peace of mind knowing that you have the support and protections you need in the workplace.