Juggling work and your personal life can be tough and that’s without adding IVF into the mix. When you have to make time for appointments, blood tests, follow-ups and admin, you might be wondering whether it would be easier to tell your employer that you are having fertility treatment.
We understand, however, that this can be a personal and sensitive subject that is difficult to approach at work. Here at Apryl, we’ve put together a guide that can help you decide if and how to tell your employer.
Do you have to tell your employer about IVF?
You don’t have to tell your employer that you are planning or undergoing fertility treatment. However, as it is a process that is both time-consuming and time-sensitive, there can be benefits to letting your employer know.
Whether you choose to tell your employer or not is a personal choice. It will depend on what you feel comfortable sharing, the relationship you have with your employer and your co-workers, and the nature of your job role.
There are currently no statutory IVF employment rights in place in the UK but Section 17.29 of the Employment Statutory Code of Practice stipulates that is ‘good practice for employers to treat sympathetically any request for time off for IVF or other fertility treatment’.
Some workplaces may have their own fertility leave policies in place and even if they don’t, many employers will be accommodating.
Should you tell your employer you are having fertility treatment?
As previously mentioned, there can be benefits to informing your employer that you are having IVF:
You’ll likely get support from colleagues
Going through IVF can be stressful. The medication protocol can cause hormone changes, your body can feel invaded and uncomfortable, and you can experience a whole host of emotions including worry, frustration, hope and grief.
By letting your employer know that you are having treatment, you can widen your circle of support as you go through the process. Depending on your relationship with your line manager and co-workers, this could mean having people to talk to about how you are feeling or individuals you can rely on to help you at work if you are struggling to focus or having a bad day.
You can discuss flexible working arrangements
Also, whilst there is no legal requirement for employers to give you leave for medical appointments, telling your employer about your treatment can make arranging time off easier.
As IVF often requires appointments and procedures at short notice, your employer might be able to offer a temporary flexible working arrangement. If you need to use your holiday allowance for appointments or take unpaid leave, your employer might forgo the usual request procedures and allow you to tell them when you won’t be at work on a day-by-day basis.
You can share your workload
Letting your employer know will also help them plan around your absences by arranging cover or delegating tasks to other staff and give you peace of mind that they aren’t making assumptions about why you aren’t at work.
When should you tell your employer you’re having IVF treatment?
There is no set rule for when the best time to tell your employer is. You might prefer to be upfront and honest from the beginning when you are first exploring treatment options or wait until your IVF cycle has begun.
Depending on your situation, your protocol and whether it is your first IVF cycle, the timeline and length of treatment will vary. For example, if it is your first cycle, you are likely going to have some background hormone and fertility blood tests. You will also be required to have tests for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C before starting treatment. You might decide that you can manage the time off for blood draws without informing your employer.
However, once you start a fresh IVF cycle, you may be self-administering medication several times a day. You might require blood tests and scans several times a week and then there is the egg collection procedure and transfer to consider as well. All of this takes place in a relatively short time frame, so at this point, you might want to talk to your employer about your treatment and the adjustments that can be made to your work schedule.
You’ll also want to consider if you will want time off to recover from procedures or for your mental health. For example, some people take the day off after egg collection as there can be some discomfort. Others like to have time off around the time they take a pregnancy test to find out if the treatment has been successful so that they have the space to come to terms with the result.
How should you tell your employer about your treatment?
How you tell your employer about your IVF treatment is again, a personal choice. You might wish to approach it informally by simply having a chat with your line manager or you may prefer a more formal method of communication such as a letter.
Regardless of how you first approach telling your employer, it is a good idea to get a written record of what is discussed and any arrangements that have been agreed upon. This will remove any ambiguity about the situation and ensure you and your employer have a clear understanding of what time off is needed and whether time off will be paid, unpaid or taken as annual leave.
The details that you choose to share about your IVF treatment are completely down to you. You may want to just tell your employer that you are having fertility treatment and that you’ll need time off for different appointments or you may prefer to give them more details about what these appointments entail. Just remember that going through IVF can be hard. When deciding on if and what to tell your employer about your treatment, make sure that you are comfortable with what you choose to reveal and that you are making choices that are best for your wellbeing and treatment plan.
Here at Apryl, we can support your workplace in providing IVF benefits for employees. If you’d like your employer to learn more about us, we can contact them on your behalf, with anonymity and discretion.