Ask the expert

Kasia

Employment rights and IVF

Hi, I am going through IVF treatment. I do heavy lifting in a chilled place at work. What are my rights during the IVF treatment?

2 March 2021

Thank you for writing into the Ask the Expert Team.

To establish your employment rights you will need to talk to your employers, but my understanding of the general principles are as follows:

During the IVF process you are not entitled to any extra time off or specific changes to your job role, however within your job contract you should be able to take time off to attend some of the medical appointments. It's likely that some will probably need to be taken in your own time too.

If your employer is aware that you are receiving IVF treatment they may adapt your work for you but care needs to be taken so that you are not being seen to be subjected to sexual discrimination within the workplace.

If you are sick as a result of IVF treatment or due to miscarrying then these again should be treated like a routine sickness occasion.

If IVF is successful you are considered ‘pregnant’ from the time of the implantation of the fertilised egg.

After the implantation a pregnancy test will be carried out after 2 weeks and then a further 2 week period is given for further tests if the pregnancy test is negative. You will be considered and treated as pregnant for this period but if these tests come back negative then you will no longer be classified by employment law as pregnant.

If after implantation the pregnancy test is positive then you will remain classed as pregnant under employment laws until the pregnancy is completed.

Under employment laws at this stage you will be entitled to attend your medical appointments and should be allowed time away from work to attend these.

Again, once pregnancy is confirmed your employer needs to be aware so that a Health and Safety Evaluation can be undertaken to assess your fitness for the job role and activities you undertake.

Issues that will need to be considered in particular for you will be the extremes in climate and temperature and the heavy lifting you currently do.

Your employer should under law where possible adapt your role or offer alternative positions to you.

Your Health and Safety Representative, Union and Occupational Health department should be able to advise you as appropriate.

In relation to employee rights when you are pregnant, the following points apply.

As a pregnant individual you have 4 main legal rights:

  • You are entitled to paid time for antenatal care – this would include medical appointments as well as antenatal classes and parenting classes if specifically advised by the midwife, GP or health professionals.
  • You are entitled to maternity leave – maternity leave and pay usually commences from 36 weeks of pregnancy or unless signed off for a prolonged period of sickness. There is also compulsory maternity leave that has to be taken for 2 weeks after childbirth, or 4 weeks if your work is factory-based, if you choose not to take statutory maternity leave.
  • You are entitled to maternity pay or maternity allowance – this commences at the time maternity leave commences.
  • You are protected against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal- employers cannot change a pregnant employee’s contract without agreement and discussion.

Your employer also has the right to be informed of your pregnancy ideally by 15 weeks prior to your estimated due date to allow opportunity for your employer to be able to allow for maternity pay and maternity leave and cover to be organised as appropriate.

For further information you may wish to take a look at the sites below:

ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)

HSE (Health & Safety Executive) - Mothers

HR Magazine

Gov.uk - Pregnant employees' rights

Working families

We hope this information is helpful and wish you all the best with the IVF treatment and the future.

Answered by the Health at Hand team.

Further reading

Pregnancy hub - AXA Health

How to get the birth you want - AXA Health

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