If you’re going through IVF or another form of assisted fertility, then you’ll know that it’s an upsetting, stressful and emotional time. The fear, worry and anticipation of whether or not it’s going to work is ever present
But if we’re also working, then we can add the worry of time off work for the seemingly constant round of tests, scans and appointments, not to mention for the emotional and physical toll these treatments take.
Having to speak to our managers and HR department and opening up about something often deeply personal is hard
Then there’s the concern that we’re not meeting our requirements of being part of a team let alone fielding off comments from others who have noticed our frequent absences.
There’s currently no statutory right for anyone as an employee to take time off work for appointments or due to feeling unwell as a result of treatment. But the Equality and Human Rights Commission Code does recommend that employers are “sympathetic”. But they can only be so, if we tell them.
So, how do we juggle this, the last in a long list of infertility related problems and concerns?
First up, we advise telling your closest work colleagues. And by that, we mean closest in the sense of how much you are true work buddies, rather than those you have to work closest with. If these two are the same, then that’s amazing. Having a work buddy on your side for support and an ear to bend if it all gets too much is so beneficial.
In terms of your line manager or HR department, being vague might be the best policy
Tell them you’ll be having medical treatment and therefore you’ll be needing some time off and allowance for appointments. You can help things by speaking to your medical team for a schedule that you can give to those necessary at work so that they know when you’ll be expecting time off. The process of IVF has very strict timings, so knowing in advance can help significantly.
If your company has a policy of flexible working or even better, working from home (thanks Covid, that’s one thing some of us can be thankful for from such an awful time) then make the most of it.
Finally, if after IVF you’re feeling strong enough to talk about it, then you could help other couples and individuals in your company. If IVF worked for you, we’re so unbelievably happy for you. If sadly it didn’t, then we hear you and understand you.
Channelling some of what you went through, whether with a sad or happy outcome, to help others in the same situation can be a cathartic process. Talking to management about creating a more open atmosphere around fertility treatment can help to make your working environment a much better and more open place for everyone.
IVF and other fertility treatments are personal and should be kept so
Please don’t feel under pressure to have to talk to colleagues about what you’re going through. After all, many of the gossip mongers will sure enough move onto something else in time.
We wish you all the best, both with your treatment and with your work conversations. We’re always here for help and advice if you need it.