Fertility charity urges employers to stop treating IVF as a ‘lifestyle choice’


leading fertility charity has urged employers to stop treating IVF like “a lifestyle choice” and provide better workplace policies for those who are undergoing treatment.

The Fertility Network UK said it had spoken to distressed women who discovered their employer considers IVF to be a lifestyle choice rather than a medical need.

This has resulted in it being “lumped together with things like cosmetic procedures”, meaning they are denied time off work for treatment and have to take annual or unpaid leave to attend appointments.

More than 53,000 patients now undergo IVF each year, according to data from the UK fertility regulator.

But a survey has revealed nearly half of the companies surveyed (48 per cent) have no policy in place to support employees undergoing IVF treatment.

Research showed 20 per cent of respondents were offered paid leave for IVF and 16 per cent allowed flexible working when requiring time off for appointments or to recover from treatment.

Gwenda Burns, chief executive of charity Fertility Network UK, said: “Research shows most people experiencing fertility problems are reluctant to speak to their employer about it because they fear it may have a detrimental effect on their career.

Embryos being prepared for freezing. Stock picture

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“We know too many end up reducing their hours, taking sick leave or leaving employment as a result of their fertility struggles and a lack of support and understanding from their employers.”

She continued: “It is shocking that, despite infertility being defined as a disease, the vast majority of firms do not have a workplace policy referring to fertility treatment.

“So many people have told us of their distress on discovering their employer considers having IVF to be a lifestyle choice, rather than a medical need, and lump it together with things like cosmetic procedures – with the result that employees cannot take time off work for treatment and instead have to use annual leave or unpaid leave.”


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