What employers need to know about IVF

baby-socks-258323_1280As women are tending to have children later in life, often due to their careers, an increasing number are having to resort to in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

What you need to know about IVF as an employer:

  • Early stages of IVF: where the woman is undergoing suitability screening or receiving hormone treatment and is not yet pregnant, she does not have the protected status of a pregnant employee. If you either suspect or are aware that an employee is undergoing IVF, then you need to ensure that she is not treated less favourably on account of this, as this could constitute sex discrimination.
  • Time off: the employee will probably need time off for a number of medical appointments prior to conception. If a reasonable amount of paid time off is permitted to attend medical appointments, then you need to be consistent as to what is “reasonable” across the workforce. Employers are encouraged to view time off for IVF sympathetically and in a similar fashion to antenatal appointments.
  • Changes to workload: women undergoing IVF are often advised to take it easy to facilitate conception. An employee may ask to work fewer hours or to reduce her responsibilities for a period of time. You will need to assess such requests on a case-by-case basis. If the impact of such a request would be easily manageable and is for a short period of time, then the best thing is to agree to it.
  • Protected status during pregnancy: in the case of IVF treatment a woman is deemed to be pregnant when the fertilised egg is implanted in her uterus, and from this point on she has the same protected status and rights as any other pregnant employee.
  • Risk assessments: if you suspect an employee is pregnant, you should only bring this up if you have health and safety concerns, and once you have been made aware that the employee is pregnant you should carry out a risk assessment in the usual way.

Four practical top tips

  • Ensure the employee undergoing IVF feels supported and able to express any concerns she may have.
  • Consider having an IVF policy in the Staff Handbook which covers notification, time off pre-conception, requests to reduce hours and/or duties, counselling, sickness absence for reasons relating to IVF, unsuccessful attempts to conceive and/or miscarriage, and the rights of fathers during IVF.
  • Allow time off for counselling should the IVF treatment be unsuccessful.
  • The rest of your workforce may have to pick up extra work if an employee undergoing IVF needs time off or reduces her workload so, provided you have the permission of the employee undergoing IVF, keep them “in the loop” and up to date with what is happening to avoid any resentment.

If you need advice on the employment law implications of IVF, please contact Helen Kay on or .

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