Introduction to this document

Letter explaining time off for fertility treatment

There’s no statutory right to time off for fertility appointments but don’t treat them any less favourably than other medical appointments. Our letter assumes you’ll grant at least some time off and thereafter the employee can apply for paid annual leave. When undergoing IVF, the employee is classed as pregnant from implantation of the fertilised ova.

IVF treatment

IVF is a form of fertility treatment which involves regular medical appointments with the employee’s GP and the fertility clinic covering investigation, counselling, blood tests, scans, ova retrieval and fertilised ova transfer. It typically takes about four to six weeks to complete one IVF cycle. The success rates vary enormously from clinic to clinic and depending on the employee’s age, so many women will undergo more than one IVF cycle.

The law

There’s no statutory right for employees to take time off work to undergo IVF or other fertility treatment before the stage at which they’re pregnant. That said, you should treat IVF appointments in the same way as you treat any other medical appointment. So, if you allow employees to be absent for up to two hours for a medical appointment, you should allow at least the same for an IVF appointment. Likewise, if you pay employees during their attendance at a medical appointment (or exercise your discretion to do so), you should pay employees during their attendance at an IVF appointment. If you fail to do so when you would have allowed time off, or paid time off, for a male employee attending a medical appointment, that’s direct sex discrimination. Following the fertilised ova transfer, the woman is regarded as being pregnant from this point of implantation. If the IVF is successful and the woman remains pregnant, she’s protected under the Equality Act 2010 against discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy until the end of her maternity leave. However, if the IVF is unsuccessful, the “protected period” ends two weeks after the end of the pregnancy, i.e. two weeks after she’s informed, by doing a pregnancy test, that IVF wasn’t successful.

Time off work

The demands of IVF mean that an approach of allowing up to two hours off for occasional medical appointments may not be appropriate. More time off may be required, which you could allow as a combination of paid leave, unpaid leave or annual leave. You could also agree a flexible working arrangement, e.g. allowing the employee to make up the time, or work from home if that’s near the clinic. Our Leaves of Absence Policy provides that you’ll grant an agreed number of days per year for time off for fertility treatment and we’ve left it open whether this will be paid or unpaid. Any days after that can be taken as paid annual leave. A word of warning: sex discrimination works both ways, so a man can claim he’s been less favourably treated than a woman if she’s granted time off for IVF but he’s not granted time off for a medical appointment. Treat requests for time off for medical appointments, and deal with payment, fairly between the sexes.


Our Letter Explaining Time off for Fertility Treatment mirrors our policy provisions by setting out what time off for fertility treatment you agree to grant. It then has two options: either the employee has already exhausted their allowance, in which case their requested is refused, or their time off is authorised. We’ve also provided two pay options: either the time off will be paid (either contractually or by exercising your discretion in the employee’s favour) or it will be unpaid. Finally, there’s a reminder that the employee can always apply to use their paid annual leave entitlement for time off.