Women are having to "duck and dive" from workplaces to undergo IVF or other fertility treatment because there are no entitlements to leave under current labour laws the Seanad has heard.

The House is debating a Bill which proposes a right to reproductive leave for workers undergoing fertility treatment or who suffer a pregnancy loss.

A number of Senators said there is a need to bring "dignity and respect" to experiences around miscarriage and reproductive healthcare.

The Labour Party Senator Marie Sherlock, said pregnancy loss is not an illness, but is being treated as such: "The reality is that there is no other leave available within the labour law in this country other than taking annual leave or sick leave. And pregnancy loss is not an illness."

She said fertility treatments are never "once off" and there is a whole series of tests, scans and procedures that take place: "It's not something that can be slotted in, in a couple of months' time. Our bodies don't work like that. So it requires being available for regular appointments," she added.

"Some people might be able to duck and dive from work for appointments, or may be working from home, "but from the perspective of teachers, of health professionals of retail workers or anybody in a customer fronting or patient fronting service, we know it is simply impossible to start your day two hours later than what you might otherwise do, or to disappear in the middle of the day and make that time up later."

The Fianna Fáil Senator, Catherine Ardagh, said she went through five rounds of IVF: "I was just ducking and diving in meetings, making up excuses why I might have to leave early or arrive late."

"It's not just the fertility appointments you are going through, there is also an emotional and mental health side effect of it. You need a bit of time afterwards to break down what you have done or gone through, or how the test went or didn't go. There is a lot of ups and downs."

The Independent Senator, Alice Mary Higgins, said the Bill was an example of legislation "recognising we are not just an economy, but a society. And workers are not just workers, but full humans with families and situations."

She said the stress around balancing a rigid workplace context and having to find ways around it really can impact on the opportunities from fertility treatment: "Those opportunities change from month to month and year to year, so it's important that people have control over the days and times they need to control their reproductive health."

She said that miscarriages can sometimes be for a very prolonged period, "a miscarriage can take weeks," and suggested this might be reflected in the final wording of the legislation.

The Bill has cross party support and is not being opposed by the Government. But the Seanad leader, Fine Gael's Regina Doherty, said that six months after it was first proposed, the government should move quickly on the legislation.

"It's not rocket science. It's just looking for a little right that when we do lose a baby, a much loved member of our family, or indeed when we are trying to create one, that there is a little bit of respect and dignity in that process," she said.

Senator Doherty asked why women should have to talk about these things in the shadows; "we talk about losing babies in the shadows, we talk about how women should just take sick leave after they have that loss. We're not sick: we're bereaved, we're grieving," she said.