What can employer's do to support employees in light of World IVF day?

What matters

What matters next

25 July marks World In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) day (or World Embryologist Day) recognising the day in 1978 the first baby was born following successful IVF treatment. To mark the day, we ask what employers can do to support employees undertaking IVF.

Background

Louise Joy Brown was the first ever baby in the world to be born following IVF treatment. Since her birth, there have been millions of babies born from this procedure which is now considered a reliable reproductive technique available to help those with fertility problems conceive a baby.  

Whilst we recognise this day to commend the success and importance of IVF treatment helping those with fertility problems to be able to conceive, employers should be mindful that IVF treatment is not always successful and comes with numerous potential side effects which can have a significant impact on an employee’s physical and mental wellbeing. 

What is the impact of IVF treatment and who is affected? 

Employers should be mindful that IVF treatment can be both physically and emotionally demanding, particularly if the IVF treatment doesn’t result in pregnancy. There are also a number of side effects from medicine used during IVF, for example, headaches, hot flushes and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, alongside a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing. Consequently, employers should be sympathetic to employees undergoing this process and provide appropriate support where required, such as allowing employees to have flexible working arrangements on a temporary basis to attend appointments and/or offering them access to counselling.

It is also important to note that it isn’t only couples / intended parents that may be affected. Those individuals who donate eggs for IVF treatment or become a surrogate following IVF treatment may also need support from their employers. 

For example, egg donors are likely to require a minimum of two days off work to include the day of egg retrieval and the day after. For those women that donate their eggs, screening tests, monitoring, admissions to hospital and follow-up appointments will be required. There are also various potential side effects from egg donating including pelvic infections and haemorrhages. Surrogacy involves the intended parents providing an embryo by IVF either using the female partner’s eggs, the surrogate’s eggs or the eggs of an egg donor which is then transferred to the surrogate mother for pregnancy and delivery. As with any medical process, there are associated risks and side effects which can have an adverse impact on a surrogate mother’s mental health and wellbeing. 

It is therefore imperative that employers ensure all employees however they might be affected by IVF, including egg donors and surrogate mothers, are provided with as much support as possible and that a consistent approach is taken to the granting of time off for necessary appointments and procedures.

What support can employers provide to those undertaking/undergoing IVF treatment?

There are various steps employers can take to support couples, egg donors, surrogates and others who may be affected by IVF treatment. These include:

  • introducing a fertility leave policy to support those who are facing fertility difficulties and, if possible, providing fertility pay to cover periods of time off under the policy; 
  • providing access to counselling to those affected employees where required;
  • appointing a fertility ambassador to engage with employees and provide training and support where necessary;
  • introducing flexible working arrangements or a temporary reduced workload to take into consideration any impact it may have on their ability to carry out their role;
  • providing training to line managers to support employees with sensitivity and compassion;
  • creating awareness of IVF and any implications it may have on employees including side effects and risks so there is a better understanding within the workplace;
  • implementing any reasonable adjustments where required for those affected by IVF;
  • creating an open, inclusive and supportive culture by encouraging open and honest conversations so that those that are affected feel they are able to speak up. 

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.

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