This is how many women are hiding IVF treatment from their bosses for fear of losing their jobs

Written by Amy Beecham

New research from insurer Zurich UK found women feel discriminated against by managers while undergoing fertility treatment.

Almost a third of women undergoing fertility treatment hid it from their boss out of fear they’d lose their job, new research from insurer Zurich UK has found.

More than half of women (58%) who undergo IVF treatment said they do not feel able to tell their employer due to concerns it may harm their career progression or they’re judged as being less committed to their job.

In the UK, over 50,00 women undergo IVF treatment annually – up from 27,000 in 2000. The research also found that women who continued working as normal throughout their IVF cycles struggle, with one in five saying it was the hardest aspect of balancing work and treatment.

For 19% of women undergoing treatment, taking annual leave to go to appointments was most difficult, while for almost one in eight, needing to use annual leave following a miscarriage was the hardest part of their experience. One in seven added that they felt discriminated against by their manager.

Alongside the research, HR experts warned that inadequate support for IVF in the workplace is damaging women’s careers.Zurich found that more than one in 10women undergoing IVF quit their jobs due to a lack of support from their employer, with nearly one in seven (14%) being forced to reduce their working hours.

Women in same-sex relationships were found to be twice as likely to take a demotion as those in heterosexual relationships.    

“IVF treatment can be emotionally and physically stressful, and the length of the process can mean that women open themselves up to difficult conversations or even discrimination much earlier than those who are able to conceive naturally,” shared Steve Collinson, chief HR officer at Zurich UK.

“Enshrining IVF leave as a right for all women won’t solve the whole problem, but it is a huge step towards ensuring that IVF is better understood and more sensitively handled in the workplace.” 

In partnership with Fertility Matters at Work, Zurich is calling on the government to make access to IVF leave a requirement for all companies, bringing it in line with other medical and pregnancy-related leave in the UK.

 “This is why we are doing the work we do, aiming to guide organisations into a culture shift to really understand the impact of infertility and the struggles people have in bringing home a baby,” explained Natalie Silverman, co-founder of the project.

“Our aim is that along with better awareness of the issue, there is better internal support and signposting. We work with organisations to ensure there is a more consistent approach from line managers as they have been trained to understand what a person needs and feel confident in how best to support them. When we consider just how much of our time we spend at work, we want it to be a psychologically safe space.”

Images: Getty

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