A survey conducted by patient support group Infertility UK (IN UK) has shown that a third of people undergoing fertility treatment are unwilling to tell their employers, due to fears that it could harm their career. The survey, which was carried out on around 300 patients, has shown that 29 per cent felt unable to approach the subject with their employers. The reasons for this seem to be that employees are worried about what the consequences will be on their career, and confidentiality issues.
The amount of time taken off by employees undergoing treatment varies, however, most had taken less than ten days. The survey shows that time off had been taken in various ways. Sick leave was taken by 56 per cent, annual leave by 47 per cent, unpaid leave by 14 per cent and 20 per cent were offered paid leave for the treatment by their employer.
It is thought that one in seven couples experience fertility problems to some degree. IN UK have commented that the survey shows 'not all employers appreciate that infertility is an illnessÉa degree of flexibility from their employer can ease the emotional strain on them, minimise disruption and make the process much easier for all concerned'.
According to the charity, among the best employers are Asda (a UK supermarket chain). The company offers up to five days paid leave and also gives the option of unpaid leave for those undergoing fertility treatment. Male employees with partners undergoing IVF are given up to one and a half days leave. The offer applies to all employees including part-time and full time workers.
New guidance has been released for employers in the form of a leaflet. The leaflet - launched by IN UK on 10 June, National Infertility Day - aims to explain what happens to an employee while they are going through fertility treatment.
Clare Brown, chief executive of IN UK, says that it is very common for patients to worry about how employers will react to the treatment they are receiving and advises that 'couples are having to deal with a very distressing illness that they can never get away from, and anything employers can do to help should be encouraged'.