Women undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment are facing discrimination at work and even being forced out of their jobs, an MP has warned.
Nickie Aiken, a Conservative Party MP for Cities of London and Westminster, has started a new campaign to introduce new legal protections for workers who are receiving fertility treatments.
Speaking to Times Radio, Aiken said, “Women are facing discrimination at work and even being forced out of their jobs because they haven’t got rights to take IVF treatment currently.” She added, “I’ve had numerous women tell me they’ve been either sidelined or sacked.”
According to a report in The Times, “Ministers are being urged to make it illegal for bosses to fire or sideline female staff who are trying to get pregnant via IVF, and to introduce a legal right to time off for fertility-related medical appointments.”
Aiken noted that legal safeguards against pregnancy-related discrimination only begin after implantation has already taken place, which means that many women undertaking IVF feel forced to “hide” it from their employers, potentially adding to “the stress that may lead to unsuccessful treatment.”
She added that “queues of women” attended appointments “before work” on Harley Street, in her constituency, because “they don’t want to take any time off.” These appointments can “cost a premium because you’re going outside your office hours,” placing an “extra financial burden on the couple” seeking treatment, she said.
Aiken also highlighted the misconceptions around IVF, saying that many people perceive it as a “lifestyle choice” for older women who’ve waited too long before trying to start a family. She explained, “It’s now come to the time that we’ve got to recognise IVF as a very, very important part of reproduction . . . We’ve got an awful birth rate here in this country. We need to keep giving birth to children so that in 30 years time, they will be paying taxes, they will be our workers of the future,” Aiken said.
“And therefore we do need to support men and women going through IVF and give them the employment rights that they need and they deserve.”
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) fertility guidelines (via NHS.uk), “IVF should be offered to women under the age of 43 who have been trying to get pregnant through regular unprotected sex for 2 years. Or who have had 12 cycles of artificial insemination, with at least 6 of these cycles using a method called intrauterine insemination (IUI).”
It’s understood that Nickie Aiken will attempt to bring forward a private member’s bill about IVF discrimination during the next parliamentary session (10 May 2022).
You can find out more about IVF on NHS.uk and the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority (HFEA).
For more from Glamour UK’s Lucy Morgan, follow her on Instagram @lucyalexxandra.