“I was entitled to paid time off for my IVF appointments and treatment – but not everyone is so lucky”

Carlene from Suffolk is a civil servant and for many years experienced painful symptoms caused by endometriosis.   

“I had a laparoscopy which revealed that I had a hydrosalpinx (fluid) on my left fallopian tube which needed removing but the adhesions caused by the endometriosis were so bad it was clipped instead,” she says. 

By that point Carlene and her husband Lewis had been trying for a baby for five years and were told they would need fertility treatment.  

“Once I knew that I was going to need IVF I looked on the civil service intranet and found they had a Fertility Policy,” says Carlene. “I was entitled to paid time off for attending appointments, scans and the IVF itself and that really helped with taking some of the stress off for me.  

Carlene and Lewis with Leo
Carlene and Lewis with Leo

“My boss was already aware of some of my issues because of my surgery and was really understanding and supportive.  

“Bourn Hall gave me a schedule for my treatment so that worked well for planning around work as well.  

“I know that some organisations lump fertility treatment in with policies that cover procedures like cosmetic surgery which I don’t agree with at all. My employer locates it under the ‘Health and Disability’ policies and also includes a link to Fertility Network’s website which offers additional resources and support.”  

Carlene’s IVF was successful at the second attempt and she is now mum to two-year-old Leo.  

“I had only produced one egg the first time around,” says Carlene. “For our second round it was suggested that I have egg collection under general anaesthetic to make it easier to retrieve my eggs. I decided not to tell my colleagues about our second treatment and took the time off as annual leave because I didn’t want the pressure of people knowing and asking me if it had been successful. But that was entirely my personal choice and for the first time around, it really helped knowing there was a proper policy in place with paid time off.”  

Carlene feels that it is not just employers and managers who have a role to play in making workplaces more ‘fertility aware’:  

“When we were going through our fertility struggles I would get ‘triggered’ by everything,” says Carlene. “I think we all have a role to play in being more aware and ‘mindful’ at work about the struggles that some people might be having. Something, such as a colleague bringing their new baby in to the office could be really upsetting for someone who might have experienced a miscarriage or had fertility issues.”  

Carlene and Leo
Carlene and Leo

More information

Read more about how endometriosis can impact fertility on our blog.

Bourn Hall offers flexibility and support to help you navigate the fertility journey, and is a partner on Fertility Network UK’s Fertility in the Workplace initiative. Find out more.

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