Employees rights during IVF treatment

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is the process of fertilisation which happens outside the women's body. This process can typically take between 4 and 7 weeks for one cycle. IVF does not always result in a pregnancy.

Key points

  • There is no statutory right for employees to take time off work to undergo investigations or treatment.
  • Following implantation the women is regarded as being pregnant.
  • If the IVF is unsuccessful, the protected period ends 2 weeks after the end of the pregnancy - 2 weeks after the date the women was informed that implantation was not successful.

Time off for investigation or treatment

Although there is no statutory right for employees to take time off work for IVF treatment, employers should treat medical appointments related to IVF the same as any other medical appointment under the terms and conditions of the contract of employment. Employers may agree to flexible working arrangements or a combination of paid, unpaid, or annual leave during the treatment.

In some cases the employee may be unable to work due to the effects of the treatment and signed off sick by the GP. Employers should treat this sickness absence in the same way as sickness for other reasons in accordance with the normal organisation rules. However, a women on sick leave during an advanced stage of IVF treatment may claim direct sex discrimination if dismissed, because they are given special protection during the protected period. An advanced stage of IVF Treatment is between the retrieval of the ova followed by the immediate transfer of the fertilised ova.

Protection against dismissal and detriment

Following implantation a pregnancy may or may not occur, but the women is regarded as being pregnant from the point of the implantation, and is protected from dismissal or adverse treatment under the Equality Act 2010 pregnancy legislation. Employees should notify their employer once they have reached this stage. The pregnancy test is usually taken 2 weeks after implantation.

If the treatment is successful and the woman remains pregnant she will be protected against discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy until the end of her maternity leave.

If the treatment is unsuccessful, the protection will end two weeks after the end of the pregnancy. A pregnancy test is taken 2 weeks after implantation and, if the test is negative, the protected period extends for a further 2 weeks.