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How to deal with an employee who is undergoing IVF treatment

Author: Claire Perry

Summary

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  • Recognise the importance of understanding what IVF treatment involves and that different employment rights apply at different stages of the process.
  • Consider policies and practice around time off, confidentiality, support and ensuring fair and equal treatment in the workplace throughout the IVF process.
  • Be aware that, for the purpose of entitlement to specific employment rights for pregnant employees, a woman is "pregnant" from the point of the implantation of fertilised ova.
  • Be aware that, under European law, the employee has special protection from discrimination, in that she will not need a male comparator, during the advanced stages of treatment but before she is pregnant.
  • Ensure that an employee's decision to undergo IVF treatment does not affect decisions in relation to her employment, for example in relation to promotion, training, restructuring or dismissal.
  • Review and implement equal opportunities and harassment policies to ensure that they cover discrimination and harassment claims that could arise in connection with IVF treatment.
  • Review sickness and absence policies to ensure that they do not discriminate against employees at the advanced stages of IVF or where pregnancy results.
  • Consider how time off for appointments and treatment during the IVF process will be treated, for example as paid leave, unpaid leave or annual leave, and communicate this to employees and line managers in a general policy on time off for medical appointments or in a specific policy on IVF.
  • Allow employees paid time off for antenatal appointments from the point of implantation of the fertilised ova.
  • Comply with the duty to carry out a risk assessment of the employee's role on notification that she is pregnant and take measures to reduce or remove any risks identified.
  • Treat information relating to an employee who is undergoing IVF with confidentiality and comply with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 in relation to processing sensitive data.
  • Consider introducing an IVF policy to demonstrate an understanding of the issues and a commitment to support employees.