Time off for IVF. Guidance for dealing with employees undertaking IVF treatment.

I have a member of staff who has approached me to inform me that she will be undertaking IVF treatment and will need time off during her normal working hours to attend appointments. Please can you provide guidance to me in regards to how the time off should be taken as I am unsure if this should be treated as paid or unpaid time off, or perhaps as sickness?

In the first instance it is important you to follow any guidelines that are contained within practice policies in relation to time off for IVF treatment.

However, if there is nothing specific outlined with the practice policies and procedures then I would suggest you meet with the individual and discuss her circumstances and options in order to reach an agreement. There is currently no legal right to time off for IVF treatment, and therefore it is up to the practice to make a (fair) decision as to how this should be taken. Unless the individual was sick and unable to attend work for this reason then there would be no reason why such appointments should be treated as sick leave.

Please be mindful that IVF treatment can cause anxiety symptoms for the individual and I would suggest you take a sympathetic and open approach to the situation so the employee does not feel forced to take unexpected time off (which would cause further disruption to the practice).

Although I would suggest you try to be as flexible as practicable with the individual it is important the needs of the business are taken into account, and the individual should be aware of this.

It is important you look at what has been done in the past at your practice, for example if you have allowed paid time off for another member of staff to attend a number of hospital appointments then it may be seen as reasonable to offer the same for this individual. On the other side to this, it is important you are aware that what you do for this individual may set a precedent for future (similar cases) and therefore it is important, as always, to remain fair and consistent.

I would suggest you take into account that IVF treatment can be complex and as it is a process that may be ongoing for your employee over a number of years and you therefore may wish to agree upfront a plan which takes this into account. Any agreement that is made with the individual should be confirmed in writing to the individual, which may be useful for you to refer back to at a later date.

In regards to sickness absence, it is worth highlighting to you that where an employee is absent from work and the sickness is related to pregnancy then special rules apply to the sickness absence (in terms of sickness monitoring purposes). However, until the individual is pregnant then such provisions would not apply.

Further to the information above, it is important that you are aware that different rules apply to antenatal care in which a pregnant employee has the right to reasonable time off with pay to attend such appointments.

Please note the above guidance is of a general nature. It is important that practices ensure policy guidelines and contractual obligations are followed.

In addition to the above FPM members can obtain further information via the FPM website. Alternatively members can also email specific questions about employment issues to advice@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk where your question will be treated in confidence and will normally be answered (by email) within 2 working days of submission.


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