A Conservative MP has called for the Government to introduce more protection and support for women in the workplace who are undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Approximately 53,000 people underwent IVF in the UK in 2019, a large proportion of whom are likely to be employed.

Nickie Aiken believes that many women do not disclose to their employers that they are undergoing fertility treatment for fear of negative repercussions.  

Currently there is no specific legal protection for women undergoing IVF. Although treating a woman less favourably because of the treatment is likely to amount to sex discrimination - one example would be failing to pay contractual sick pay in circumstances where an employee takes time off due to the side effects of the treatment. 

Introducing legal rights, such as the right to take time off to attend appointments, or a specific protection against being treated less favourably because of IVF treatment, could be developments we will see in this area.

In any event, there are certainly things employers could be doing now to better support employees struggling with infertility and IVF. Having a clear policy setting out the time-off and support available, as well as introducing infertility and IVF awareness training, are two things employers can be doing to support staff. Partners of women undergoing IVF should not be forgotten about, and any policies and training should take them into account. 

Ms. Aiken is hoping to introduce a Private Member's Bill, to create a legal right to time off for medical appointments in the early stages of IVF. Even if this Bill does not ultimately pass, there is likely to be more changes in this area as awareness grows around the issue.