By Elizabeth Chloe Romanis and Sabrina Germain
For people in England and Wales needing access to fertility treatment, economic barriers can be a huge hurdle. There are the direct costs of the treatment (some, but not all, of which are covered by the National Health Service). But there are also the less visible indirect costs associated with accessing these treatments. These include needing time off work to attend appointments, funding travel to and from fertility clinics, and having access to spaces at work to store and administer medication and take private phone calls. Indirect costs limit access to fertility treatment for structurally disadvantaged individuals in England and Wales. It is for this reason that a Private Member’s Bill currently being debated in the House of Commons, the Fertility Treatment (Employment Rights) Bill, which seeks to introduce fertility leave in the UK, should be welcomed (see earlier posts in this symposium by Dafni Lima and Manna Mostaghim).
Introducing a formal entitlement to “allow employees to take time off from work for appointments for fertility treatment; and for connected purposes” is a step in the right direction. We offer an intersectional reading of the Fertility Treatment (Employment Rights) Bill and consider how the benefits offered are likely to be stratified along class, race, sexuality, and gender lines. The Bill is well-meaning and highlights the critical issue of indirect barriers to fertility treatment in the workplace, but it is inattentive to structural issues affecting marginalized people experiencing infertility.