A campaign to give IVF couples statutory time off has reached parliament

"It is emotionally draining, costly, risky, and a long process."

Statutory time off for IVF: A couple hold hands in front of a doctor
(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

"It is emotionally draining, costly, risky, and a long process."

In health news today, MP Nickie Aiken has launched a campaign to give couples undergoing IVF statutory time off work.

The campaign, which has now reached parliament, aims to give couples adequate time to receive their treatment and also encourages employers to provide better support.

IVF stands for in vitro fertilisation and, as per the NHS website, describes when an egg is fertilised with sperm in a lab. Normally couples undergo IVF when they are having trouble conceiving.

That's where the MP’s bill comes in - setting out to develop kinder, more compassionate guidelines when it comes to giving couples time off for IVF. Aiken argues that couples should have legal rights and protection from the point at which they start fertility treatment and that it should be a legal requirement for employers to have a workplace fertility policy.

Aiken said: “Fertility treatment affects millions of people from all ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. It is emotionally draining, costly, risky and a long process. You could go through multiple cycles before conceiving, they can be unpredictable, and women have to deal with the symptoms, the risk of complications, and the day-to-day practicalities such as self-injecting."

“Undergoing treatment while juggling a career is very tough," she continues. "Many people feel they cannot tell their employer for fear of being overlooked for a promotion or being made redundant. The number of people hiding it from their employer and taking sick leave is shockingly high. It’s no wonder more than a third have considered quitting their job."

Statutory time off for IVF: Happy woman hugging her pregnant girlfriend

“This must change. Couples need permission to attend fertility appointments no matter where they work, without fear of being negatively impacted in their career. My Private Members Bill sets out to give couples the right to take the time off for fertility treatment, just like they would have for antenatal appointments.”

One in six couples will be affected by infertility over the course of their lifetime. 

Data from the Fertility Matters At Work 2020 Survey shows that a third of people currently going through IVF treatment have considered leaving their job, while 70 per cent have had to take time off sick.

The findings also indicated that many do not feel comfortable discussing IVF treatment openly with their employer and so struggle through the journey largely unsupported.

Some said that they fear it will be held against them, they won’t be considered for the next promotion, or they will risk facing redundancy. When they do chat with their boss, many felt that it was used against them during future opportunities such as promotion discussions.

It's hoped that the bill will help millions who are struggling to juggle both fertility treatment and work.

The bill also aims to be inclusive - that is, offer IVF leave no matter what your job or where you work.

What do you reckon - should statutory time off for couples to undergo fertility treatment should be a right?

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.