The case for paid fertility leave in the UK
The Fertility Treatment (Employment Rights) Bill was put forward in Parliament by Conservative MP, Nickie Aiken in the middle of 2022. One of the rights proposed under the Bill is paid time off work for people undergoing fertility treatment.
This is a much-needed piece of legislation for many reasons:
- Firstly, the modern workplace has evolved significantly over the years to recognise the needs of wider society such as providing flexible working arrangements. Pregnant employees are able to take time off for antenatal appointments. Why can the same not be observed for those who are facing fertility issues? It seems, the main issue is the stigma that certain employers hold about fertility in that it is seen to be a lifestyle choice and not a medical condition.
- The lack of recognition that employers place on fertility issues as a medical condition only increases the stress and anxiety of their workers. A survey of 1,300 fertility patients carried out by Fertility Network UK in 2022 claimed that 59% of people surveyed said that their relationships were negatively affected by fertility problems, 36% felt that their career was damaged because of fertility treatment and 30% reported experiencing suicidal feelings.
- Many workers experience feelings of guilt, shame and sadness regarding their fertility issues and feel that they must lie about their condition to other colleagues. They may even resort to using annual leave to take time off for treatment. The cost of fertility treatments only adds to this burden, for example, just one cycle of IVF in the UK can cost up to £5,000 or more. Employers can help alleviate this stress by allowing employees to take time off (fertility leave) without the added pressure of lost wages.
The process of fertility treatment is emotionally and physically draining, expensive and risky. It is significant that the UK brings about change in the law to help protect the workplace rights of those undergoing fertility treatment. It is to be hoped that this will alleviate some of the pressure on parents seeking to conceive.
This blog was written by Rabiha Malik, Paralegal at didlaw.