Change UK Employment Law to protect those needing fertility treatments like IVF

Change UK Employment Law to protect those needing fertility treatments like IVF

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Jemma Howard started this petition to Alok Sharma MP and


Here in the UK the National Health Service states that 1 in 7 couples may have difficulty to conceive. This is approximately 3.5 million people in the UK.

At present there is no statutory right for employees to take time off work for IVF (or lesser infertility) treatment. There is no ‘right to parenthood law’ at present. If you do not suffer from infertility and have been gifted with a reproductive system that works – then UK employment law currently offers those who have been successful in their quest to become parents 18 weeks leave for each child you have up to their 18th birthday. The maximum leave annually is 4 weeks for each parent. A ‘week' equals the length of time an employee normally works over 7 days.

Equally if you are fortunate enough to become pregnant you are also protected by Maternity Employment Law whereby the law states pregnant employees are protected against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal. This same legislation needs to be extended to couples who medically require IVF or other such fertility treatments. 

The NHS; the UK’s current largest employer has included infertility treatments in some of its Trusts' policies and guidelines.

An example of this would be Portsmouth Hospital’s policy:

''6.36 Fertility Treatment

The Trust will allow paid time off for employees undergoing fertility treatment of up to 5 days in a rolling 12 month period, up to a maximum of 10 days in total.''

Whilst this isn’t ground breaking, it is helpful, it is consideration and shows a duty of care TO ALL staff. It’s a step towards true equality in the workplace taking into account the 3.5million people who are struggling to conceive.

Couples should not need to be put into positions whereby they should disclose very personal details about their family plans (when there is only a 30% chance of each cycle of IVF being successful), they should not be forced to mix work life and home life to this extent. Your co-workers knowing about your private parts is actually quite demeaning. If there was a form to fill in as casually as a MATB1 (to verify the need for fertility treatment) it would take a lot of sadness, embarrassment and awkward conversations out of an already bleak scenario for couples, whilst adding some vagueness into the mix.  Some women have reported that they have been overlooked for interviews since disclosing their need for assisted reproduction services or have held back from going for new positions in their existing companies because of the demand medical appointments draw on their time. Other women have expressed that they fear for their jobs due to having taken sick leave to cover the period of time in which they underwent IVF. 

IVF clinics including private clinics generally work 8am-5.30pm Monday to Friday with only essential procedures to be carried out on a Saturday and in very rare cases a Sunday. With the reduced staff numbers on weekends and the fact that IVF and other assisted reproduction treatments are timed to a woman’s cycle a woman has little to no control over the days at which she will need to be at her clinic.

Often clinic appointments are scheduled at short notice – which becomes even more difficult to discuss with an employer. Yet, Linda who needs to rush off at 2pm because school rang because Thomas has banged his head just gets a simple head nod from the manager. If you’ve found yourself in this position in the workplace – facing the prospect of unfair treatment for example, being told ‘No’ because that day is not convenient whilst being made to feel extremely guilty about it, or even being hinted at that your appraisal is coming up whilst watching your pregnant or parent co-workers be treated differently – then you will agree with me that the Employment Law for every business needs to change to include provisions that protect people who are biologically challenged too, all 3.5 million of them.

The UK fertility market is currently worth £320m according to healthcare intelligence experts; LaingBuisson. They state that in terms of volume this equates to 68,000 IVF and IUI cycles. This market was showing a 3% year on year growth with a more recent 4.5% growth curve.

Given the taxable revenue yielded from the fertility services sector the Government owes it to couples in need of these services to ensure everyone has fair provisions for time to attend appointments and have treatments, without facing discrimination in the workplace. Fertility clinics would also benefit from a ‘right to parenthood’ law being passed as more couples would be able to choose to take a set number of paid or unpaid days off work, whilst knowing they were protected, for most women protection in this field would mean they could do two IVF cycles a year instead of just one. 

Democracy is built on the notion of freedom. When a couple isn’t offered the freedom to choose when they can try for a family it feels like a harsh injustice. When a woman is scorned for asking to attend a fertility appointment at short notice, or worse made to feel guilty for wanting to start a family then we know that change needs to happen.

A fairer solution would be private businesses and ALL social sectors being legally required to offer the same as the NHS policies and guidelines stated previously.

This petition requests the following be put in place: 

  • A form similar to a MATB1 to be filled in by the fertility clinic entitling that a couple both the male and the female to each have the following proposed leave. 
  • 5 days paid in a 12 month period. With the ability to use as half days. 
  • 5 days unpaid in a 12 month period. With the ability to use as half days. 
  • Training for all HR teams on the flexibility and the unfortunate short-notice required for such appointments to harness understanding and compassion. 

Inclusion of people needing fertility treatments in the Equality Act would also be necessary to make discrimination towards those out of work for fertility appointments illegal. 

This will allow the couples the chance to try for a family despite being in employment with the bare minimum information being disclosed in an efficient and far less perturbing way. Whilst also ensuring that the couple is protected from discrimination as their pregnant and parent counterparts already are. 

It should be illegal for employers to even insinuate that women could lose their jobs over choosing to have a family by means of IVF. Many women are fortunate to have supportive employers, however many sufferers of infertility are sadly not this lucky. This petition is for those women; the employees forced to choose between their dream of a family or their income source. This petition is for women whose employers don’t take the time to understand that egg collection MUST happen on that day, who ask ‘does it have to be tomorrow?’. 

Reason for petition: 

When your 9 to 5 becomes your new form of contraception…

It’s 4:45 pm you’re clock watching – you’re ovulating or so your app says and tonight you can go home without a single co-worker knowing and you can do the deed knowing you won’t need to disclose your private family plans to grow your family until you begin to show… or not.

After 1 year of trying naturally a couple in the UK qualifies for assisted reproductive services. In the United States of America 9% of men and 11% of women of reproductive age have experienced fertility problems according the National Health Statistics Reports.

Here in the UK the NHS states that 1 in 7 couples may have difficulty to conceive. This is approximately 3.5 million people in the UK.

This is potentially 3.5 million couples facing discrimination as a result of their bodies failing them. Infertility is not met with the same compassion and understanding as most well-known illnesses. It is still treated like a lifestyle choice, this in itself as a notion is discriminatory. Nobody chooses to be infertile.

I personally require IVF as I have no fallopian tubes to carry an egg to my womb following two ectopic pregnancies. We have been trying for a child together for 3 and a half years. In that time I have only been able to have two IVF cycles around work and have used annual leave. I hold IVF support meet ups in Leeds city center frequently and speak to women and men undergoing IVF treatment daily. My concerns are not in any way isolated. It is important that women have access to fertility treatments 'in a timely manner' as there is a clock ticking on their egg health. It is important that women do not feel like they are putting their prospects of having a family in the tight clasp of their employer. 

Every body should have the 'Right to Parenthood'. Current employment law is serving as an additional means of contraception; an additional barrier method for the 1 in 7 couples who are already up against the odds and we need to question should the workplace be able to govern the shape of our families in this way? 

Provisions to educate HR teams and employers on their existing discrimination alongside provisions to ensure women and their partners are protected - just as pregnant women already are and just as existing parents already are,  are the only fair things to do with equality in mind.


0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,000!
At 1,000 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!