Hands up everyone who has a maternity policy? A paternity leave policy? An adoption policy? A shared parental leave policy?
It’s good to take the time to ensure that your employees know what they can expect when they are starting, or thinking about starting, a family. Even if your policy is to go no further than statutory provisions, at least they then know that without having to ask.
Although there is no statutory right to time off for IVF treatment, employers should be supportive and at least treat appointments in the same way as other medical appointments.
Also, many employees aren’t clear about the statutory provisions, so being able to access this information in the context of their own workplace is helpful. Line managers also find a reference point extremely useful in supporting members of their teams at these times. So, what information should be in these policies? We read an article recently which highlighted the importance of IVF being higher up on the HR agenda, and it got us thinking.
The most basic information within these policies would be related to time off, pay and their employment and benefit protections. However, policies generally go further by covering things like returning to work, along with more detailed information about the provisions themselves and, if relevant, any enhancements to statutory provisions. What’s often missed is information relating to IVF treatment and surrogacy.
This could be because many employers don’t have a firm grasp of what’s involved and aren’t aware of the employment rights and protections surrounding IVF and surrogacy.
What does this mean for employers?
In a nutshell, although there is no statutory right to time off for IVF treatment, employers should be supportive and at least treat appointments in the same way as other medical appointments.
IVF can also cause side effects which may result in the employee being absent due to sickness. Again, this should be dealt with in line with your sickness absence policy but with regard to the fact that a woman off sick at an advanced stage (ie the time around fertilisation and implantation) has special protection during what is known as a protected period. Any dismissal in relation to this could lead to a successful claim of direct sex discrimination.
Once implantation has occurred, a woman is regarded as pregnant and therefore protected by pregnancy legislation. A pregnancy test is usually done 2 weeks after implantation, if the test is negative then the protections remain for a further 2 weeks.
Surrogacy is another area which is often not covered within these policies. It’s worth noting that employees who have a child through surrogacy arrangements and meet the eligibility criteria (together with having applied for a Parental Order) may have entitlements to adoption leave and pay, shared parental leave and pay and paternity leave, as well as accompanying the surrogate mother to 2 ante natal appointments without pay.
So, a tricky topic but one which should be considered within HR policies as we work towards a more inclusive environment. Hopefully these tips have given you some food for thought when updating your policies.
To get the ball rolling, we’ve spent some time putting together template Maternity and Adoption policies to address these areas, please feel free to amend these to suit your organisation.
If you would like some help in drafting or developing other policies or think that your management teams may benefit from some training in these areas, the Vista team will be happy to help.