Absence/sick leave for fertility trea... - Fertility Network UK

Fertility Network UK

28,833 members40,247 posts

Absence/sick leave for fertility treatment


Hi, I’m currently undergoing my second IVF round and having some difficulties with work. I am a teacher and ideally I do not want to work whilst on stims (worried about covid and my job is highly stressful) but I think my school may start absence management proceedings against me. This is worrying me. I took time off sick on my last cycle which is why my absence is so bad. Outside of the absences from fertility, I have had 3 days absence over the year and have a very good track record with absences. I have been told that after transfer I am classed as pregnant but do not know whether the time off after this can be categorised as ‘pregnancy related’ and therefore not counted towards a trigger for absence procedures. I’m just really struggling with what to do. I want to prioritise myself but can’t cope with having to jump through hoops and explain and justify myself to work. Anyone else had a similar experience?

47 Replies

Hi Cassie, sorry you're having a tough time with this. My company said if I needed time off due to IVF they would put it down as compassionate leave - is this something that yours might do? xx

Cassie_56 in reply to Millbanks

Hi, thank you for your reply. I attempted this but unfortunately just had to explain myself multiply times why I needed it off and then was met with a ‘no’. I’m now trying to see if I can at least work from home. I may just have to take the risk with absence management. Thank you

Millbanks in reply to Cassie_56

I'm really sorry to hear that. I know it can be really difficult with work to try and balance this, plus the whole emotional side. I have to say, Covid has saved my bacon this year as working from home makes it so much easier to get to appointments. And more than once I have been sat at my computer, replying positively to emails when I'm bawling my eyes out!! xx

You might want to check to see if there is a specific Fertility Treatment policy, my company has this. Ours is you can have 5 days off, I took 2 full days one for egg collection and one when I lost my second embryo, I'm sure I've had the equivalent of all 5 with the various scans and appointments through!

I work in HR and I don't think until you're on the NHS pathway for pregnancy with midwives appointments, blue folder etc you're protected (in law) under maternity policies / regulation.

A lot of this tends to be on the discretion of the employer, so speak to them, be open and honest about your worries, they should support you. If all else fails if you're part of a union speak to them or there's always ACAS if you've been with your employer for 2+ years.

Cassie_56 in reply to lizzybee81

Hi, thank you for your reply. Unfortunately there isn’t a specific policy at my work. They have said they would authorise appointments though so at least they won’t count towards absence. It’s just I know how unwell I get when I’m at work (stress) and I know it’s not going to be good for me to work on the days I don’t have appointments. Feel really stuck. Thank you though - I have contacted my union just to get someone on my side! It feels very lonely!

lizzybee81 in reply to Cassie_56

It’s very difficult, your union should step in and between you and I we’re unionised & it’s amazing the “issues” that disappear when they do!

I’d advise the union route & leave the signing off in your back pocket as a last resort especially if you’ve been signed off before but of course up to you. Best of luck x


I hope this works 🤞xx

This is the link to Acas about ivf and work xx

Thank you x

Hi Cassie, agreed on the above, your company may have a special policy for fertility treatments that you can utilise (mine provide 5 days) but of course means you need to tell them what you are undergoing.

For my first cycle, I requested a sick note from my GP for 2 weeks who just said it resorted to gynae issues which I shared with my work and they didn’t ask any questions. If your doctor signs you off, I imagine it may be similar for you?

Best of luck - totally get how stressful it is! Xx

Thank you. I will just seek to get signed off - I did this last time - it’s just stressful having worry of formal absent management meetings because of it!

I'm a teacher, packed in my job May 2019 after a year of miscarriages/failed ivf. Took up supply teaching, best decision I ever made. Can pick and choose days I work, no guilt when booking weeks off, no stress. Because I'm experienced and a hard worker, I got a permanent job, 3 days a week ppa cover, at a lovely little school. Currently very early into a natural pregnancy and contemplating whether to book off til Xmas. I know it's not financially viable for everyone, but it's made my life easier doing supply. I'd never go back to full time teaching now, ever. I don't know how I did it for so long. Good luck with whatever you decide to do, xx

Thank you for your reply. I’m so pleased it worked out for you and you found a way out! I don’t think this is a route I can take - not even sure what I’d do as supply as had a pretty unconventional route into teaching and not sure who would want me! But may be something I consider in future if have you go through this again!


Yes it is AFTER the transfer which is when you are deemed legally pregnant and any sickness which is ‘pregnancy related’ cannot be used to initiate disciplinary procedures. So this is up until your official test date if negative or throughout your pregnancy if the transfer is successful. Any ordinary sickness can be used against you though i.e common cold etc. Good luck...x

Cassie_56 in reply to Tiddly1984

Thank you - it’s the ‘pregnancy related’ part that is confusing me. I’ve just spoken to someone at ACAS who said there isn’t any legal definition of what pregnancy related means. So my argument is that I wouldn’t be off if I wasn’t emotionally and physically exhausted because of potential pregnancy and therefore it should be pregnancy related but that sounds tenuous to me!

Tiddly1984 in reply to Cassie_56

I think if you can link your sickness to the pregnancy it will count. So backache, migraine, nausea, vomiting, swollen ankles, tiredness etc. I think you have to be weary with using emotional aspects related to your pregnancy because it may not always be accepted. If you’ve not had a transfer or are not pregnancy it will not count as pregnancy related. You will need to legally be considered pregnant before you can make anything pregnancy related. So the definition of pregnancy related sickness may not be clearly defined, but ‘pregnant’ is. Hope that makes sense and answers your question if I haven’t read your response wrong.

Cassie_56 in reply to Tiddly1984

Thank you. I will wait til transfer before trying to claim anything as pregnancy related if I go this route.

Hi, I am a teacher mid way in to my 3rd ivf cycle. It is very different this time around due to covid as obviously we are at high risk of catching it and whilst the job has always been stressful, covid has made that aspect much worse too. I spoke to my school about my concerns and they were really supportive and completely understood. I am working from home during stims and up until embryo transfer. I usually hate not being in but I have accepted that it’s just too risky in school right now. After embryo transfer I intend to go back and act as anybody else in early pregnancy. (I did a tww whilst the schools were closed and the lack of distraction was horrible!) have you spoken to your head or hr manager? You might be surprised. Speaking to the union for back up is a good plan. Your clinic could also help, I had to sign to say I would self isolate for this period, I photographed that document to show work if needed but they haven’t asked. If you don’t have to sign they could email you guidance to show them perhaps. X

Thank you, this is really useful. I have just emailed my head to ask if I can work from home at least for a while unless that becomes too unmanageable. I hope for a positive response but so far they haven’t been that understanding. I had multiple meetings before half term basically having to explain over and over again why I might even need time off because they ‘just can’t understand’. My clinic have just said it’s advised isolation but can’t provide me with anything to back that up. Thank you though, really does help. Waiting for a response from union - it’s proving impossible to get through to them!

I’m sorry to hear they have not been very understanding. That must be really frustrating for you 😬. I’ve heard the union ate very slow atm, must be inundated thanks to stupid covid. You could always get signed off with anxiety as somebody has said. My school said that was also an option if I couldn’t cope working from home but I have been glad of the distraction. It might be worth reading up on the absence policy, it might be that one long block for anxiety only counts as one. I remember my friend and colleague got put on absence monitoring a few years back due to general viruses,bad cold etc and then a car crash pushed her over the limit. She was furious but they said the same, no exemptions. It ended up just being a pointless formality that even the SLT doing it couldn’t see the purpose (this was under the LEA, things are actually better for us as an academy as our head has more of a say) I hope this all gets sorted for you. X

Hi Cassie , I currently have been signed off for a month and the note was for anxiety IVF related. I'm a nurse and it was impossible to isolate so I just took the plunge and spoke to the doctor. Turns out I have to freeze my whole cycle because of OHSS but seeing as I'm already on sick in just going to stay off . Do what you have to do this is a precious time for you 😘 xxx

Cassie_56 in reply to Francezc

Hi, thank you, sorry to hear about your OHSS, hope you’re feeling ok. This is something I may do - just can’t afford to lose my job so worried about the absence. Will see how stims goes and reconsider. Hopefully will be allowed to work from home next week at least! Hope you feel better soon x

Hi Cassie,

Would your school really push for a absence management during Covid times and through IVF?? So many teachers and students will surely be away from just having a high temp or a cough. I work in teaching also...

How will you take the time off if your school has said no? Could you not get signed off for 2 weeks for stress or something else?

If that’s the case... I’m surely due one too ☹️ I had bad flu last autumn and was off 2 weeks. I had 1 week off in Feb for my frozen transfer, 2 weeks off as I miscarried in March just before lockdown (I just broke down with everything going on), I had 2 weeks off for my fresh transfer... I’m surprised I still have a job!! Can they do anything if you have medical certificates?? Xx

Cassie_56 in reply to BettyBe

Hi, sorry to hear of your difficult journey. I hope my post hasn’t made you worry unduly. I’m sure each school is different and would think you would have heard from HR if there was a problem.

I will get signed off if I need to, just wanted to avoid absent management. They’ve said the policy is the policy and nothing/no-one is exempt from it. I’m only reporting the bad bits - they say they are supportive and will give time off for appointments but I don’t think they understand the emotional impact. They haven’t triggered formal process yet but I did have an informal meeting where they said if I had any further absences ‘stage 1 formal procedures’ may be triggered. To be honest I’m probably just so emotionally exhausted I may be preparing for the worst when it may not happen!

BettyBe in reply to Cassie_56

Hopefully it goes well for you and they don’t trigger the first step. I didn’t know they could do that with authorised absences... maybe just deal with it as and when it happens? It’s easier said than done if it’s in the back of your mind xx

Hi Cassie, I’ve also struggled with this, I didn’t want my line manager knowing & my company doesn’t have a fertility policy. I tended to use leave. On my last transfer I took two weeks leave but told my manager I had to have a medical procedure at the end of the two weeks before returning to work, just so she knew. Of course the ‘procedure’ was the transfer which was at the start of the two weeks leave. She told me to take my ‘medical procedure’ day as a sick day so I did. When we had the positive pregnancy test, I phoned the GP explained my anxiety (which went through the roof), she signed me off for two weeks. The GP wrote on my form it was anxiety due to medical procedure. She was happy for me to phone her back & request longer but she could only do it for 2 weeks without speaking to me again. Then, I self certified for a week informing my manager I had a set back ( I had a bleed after the 6 week scan) & would need another week to recover. This gave me 5 weeks off (2 weeks leave, 2 week fit note from GP, 1 week self certified) in total. Eventually I felt ready to go back to work & informed my manager & HR that i was pregnant and it was high risk. This enabled me to work from home. Best of luck Xx

Cassie_56 in reply to jengi

Thank you, it’s good to hear others experiences. I have asked to work from home next week and will see what they say and then will have to be off sick. They’ve seemed a bit more supportive today but I think that’s in response to an email I sent quoting all kinds of things to try and get them to be more supportive!


I’m also a teacher and had a right ball ache with my employer. They threatened not to pay me it was really horrendous.

I had to self isolate before egg collection so was covered by a letter from the clinic for that time then I was signed off by the GP for two weeks afterwards. My GP is amazing to be honest and she made a point of putting ‘extra stress caused by employer’ on my sick note lol which gets declared to the local authority so they soon changed their tune.

I know it’s hard not to worry as a teacher and we are programmed to be at school no matter what but you come first x

Cassie_56 in reply to Bungy1234

Thank you for your message, it really helps to hear others experiences and although yours was bad too, it makes me feel like I’m not being unreasonable! I’ve asked to work from home next week as worried about covid and then will perhaps get signed off. I think they’ve just today, agreed to put down any days absent after transfer as pregnancy related but need confirmation of that. I’m also speaking to my union tomorrow to just log it in case it becomes a problem. Did you speak to your union? Thanks

Bungy1234 in reply to Cassie_56

I’m the union rep for my school but no I didn’t get union advice as in the UK (not sure where you are) the union can do very little as there are no employment laws covering IVF at all. I did speak to a charity called Pregnant then Screwed in the UK who were incredibly helpful!

Cassie_56 in reply to Bungy1234

I see. Well still going to speak to my union as although they may not be able to do anything I unfortunately don’t have a huge amount of faith in my school and so would just feel reassured them being in the picture. Thanks!

Bungy1234 in reply to Cassie_56

Good luck!

I did 5 rounds of IVF in 18 months including during covid - other than transfer /collection which luckily fell 50% of the time over a weekend I arranged all my appointments for when the clinic opened at 730am and took maybe 2-3 days annual leave in total - my company doesn’t have an IVF policy either and I work up and down the country in a very male dominated industry

As a teacher what happens to your classes/students when you work from home? Is the school equipped to continue teaching to a certain standard when other teachers might be off with covid or isolating? I would speak to your clinic about whether they can accommodate you before work for appointments? I can imagine it’s a difficult time for schools at the moment juggling everything? You could get signed off but won’t it just go down against you?

You do have legal protection the 2 weeks after transfer but not after that ie to recover from getting a BFN so I would speak to your Union to clarify that one?

Hi, thanks for your reply. You really went through it! Amazing to have managed with taking so little time off, really don’t know how you managed!

You’re right about schools being difficult at moment with staff and students off for covid etc so it does put extra pressure on them but to be honest I am being a it selfish and just know it’s not good for me at moment to be in with the stress and the risk of covid.

ACAS I think says there is 2 weeks after getting BFN that is protected by pregnancy rules as well as Tww but it’s not clear what is classed as ‘pregnancy related’ so would need the GP note to specify that on sick note I think. And yes it will go down against me getting signed off but feel like I have to take that risk - otherwise I’m putting work before having a baby and I’ve put work before my whole life up til now!

Thanks for your reply

Hi Cassie I am sorry to hear this . I am also a teacher , when I started my recent round I was told by my hospital that if I had to self isolate my treatment would be cancelled . When I talked to work about this and how best to keep myself safe they suggested I work from home and they covered my class for a week and a half. You absolutely need to prioritise yourself , image how disappointed you would be if you had to cancel treatment ? I recommend going to your doctor and getting signed off because you are under going medical treatment up until your egg collection .

Cassie_56 in reply to JaneHaley

Hi, thank you for this, it actually really helped to put it in perspective - if I had to cancel because of forced myself in I’d be gutted. I’ll try the work from home first. Thank you

JaneHaley in reply to Cassie_56

Good idea , I worked from home too and it went fine , I even managed to teach a few groups online.

Cassie_56 in reply to JaneHaley

Now they’ve suggested I work from home but go in to teach my lessons. Being off sick is looking more and more likely.....

JaneHaley in reply to Cassie_56

How can you work from home but also go into work ?! This makes no sense ?! And if you are in work you are still putting yourself at risk!

Cassie_56 in reply to JaneHaley

I know. I said that wouldn’t work so they’re going back to speak to my principal. I did speak to my union today and they were brilliant though! They said they’d allocate me a case worker and support me with them making adjustments to trigger points etc. So that’s made me feel a bit better!

JaneHaley in reply to Cassie_56

Good I am glad to hear , I am so sorry you are having to go through this though , things are hard enough without them making you feel worse about it. It’s so unfair that it is at the discretion of the Head, teachers should have a blanket policy for this kind of thing. Really glad your union was supportive.

Hi Cassie, sorry your work are being so difficult and not at all understanding. I’m a Midwife and last week ended up going home from work and am now on long term sick. I have already had 8 weeks off following hospital admission for OHSS and only managed 4 shifts back before I lost the plot and just couldn’t handle it anymore. Our journey has been far from smooth and I’m currently about to start my 4th protocol to even get me to My first embryo transfer. The clinic called last Tuesday to say the CCG weren’t happy to continue to fund me to get to an embryo transfer because it had been so difficult and then a patient was quite rude to me about an appointment and I just thought I can’t be in this environment anymore. (The funding is now sorted) I called the GP who was amazed I’d lasted that long and is signing me off for the next couple of months. Is that an option for you? Not sure what your policy is but ours means that if it’s a long term absence (Over 4 weeks) there are no consequences/comeback for that. Our short term absence policy is very similar to yours I believe x

Cassie_56 in reply to Goldie24

My word, it sounds as though it’s been really difficult for you. I can’t imagine how tough it would be to go through all of that and be as midwife. I think the long term absence is the same but not really sure, having had all these responses though it really has helped me to get a bit of perspective on it all. It’s not that I couldn’t take it off sick, it was just that I was scared of the consequences but I just need to do what I need to do. I really really hope and pray your 4th cycle goes well for and you get to transfer X

Goldie24 in reply to Cassie_56

Oh I completely get what you mean - I was the same as was so scared of the triggers. I went in once throwing up into a jug as I walked into the office because otherwise I’d trigger and that just seems insane now I look back! You have to put yourself first and do whatever you need to do to get through it. Good luck with everything xx

Hi, I‘m sorry to hear that your school are difficult. I am also a teacher and when I was looking at IVF and knew that I would require some time off I contacted my union to find out where I stood. They told me that it would be at my Head’s discretion. I decided that I didn’t have enough faith in my Head to be compassionate enough to give me the time and decided that it was private and the school did not need to know as I was worried they would make things difficult for me. I therefore spoke to my doctor. They said that they could write it off as medical investigations, gynaecological or anxiety and the school would not have to know. In the end I went in the school holidays so it was irrelevant but I was glad to know I had options. Good luck.

Thank you, I feel the same - so sad when don’t have faith in head! And makes everything difficult! Glad you got around it by going in holidays. I could have my appointments before work but it’s more to do with the juggling of everything and being so stressed anyway at work. I told my head that I was so stressed and overwhelmed with work because of covid and all the extra that it’s caused and he said he didn’t think that was the case!

JaneHaley in reply to Cassie_56

What a rubbish reply from your Head :(

That’s terrible. What does he know about how you personally feel? My union said don’t forget you have six months full pay on sick leave and six months half pay. You could go off with stress. It certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable, it’s a very stressful process and time. X

You may also like...