There is still some stigma attached to infertility and many couples worry about colleagues finding out that they are having difficulty conceiving. The emotional impact of infertility cannot be under-estimated and going through tests and treatment is often a deeply traumatic process. People undergoing fertility treatment can suffer from depression and feelings of isolation.
Infertility is a medical condition that affects one in seven couples in the UK; around three and a half million people. Infertility has a wide range of causes and there are different treatments, ranging from drug therapy to assisted conception. Men as well as women are affected by infertility but women are likely to need greater and more prolonged treatment.
There are a number of different types of assisted conception; one of the best known is IVF. During this type of treatment women patients have to attend a clinic on a regular basis over a period of weeks.
This issue is very personal and you may worry your confidentiality will be breached or that you will be penalised for taking time off or that your career prospects may be affected.
Appointments can sometimes be fitted around work but some aspects of the treatment may involve a general anaesthetic or sedation when it will not be possible to work. Individuals may also react in different ways to the treatment.
There is no automatic right to time off for fertility treatment but time off for medical appointments related to fertility should be treated in the same way as any other medical appointment under your employer’s policy.
If your employer refuses time off for such treatment you may be able to bring an employment tribunal claim for indirect sex discrimination.
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.
Keep your employer informed about ongoing treatment for infertility and the reasons for absence.