Workplaces that offer IVF and egg freezing to become the norm?

American workers are used to the idea that reproductive health benefits are tied to employment – but could this be the case for UK workers too?

Both British Gas and Natwest bank are starting to offer subsidised fertility treatments for workers. This support can equal up to 20% off treatments such as egg and sperm freezing, IVF and donor eggs. The benefits are available to same sex as well as heterosexual couples. Centrica, who own British Gas, has also begun to offer menopause consultations as well as fertility support, while Nat West launched its fertility benefits scheme in response to a group of staff who approached the bank’s HR department about more help with fertility issues. 

Egg freezing and IVF could help career women – but it’s complicated

Law firm Clifford Chance is handling the financial side of the scheme for both companies, which could mean a contribution of up to £15000 towards employee’s fertility treatments. 

Some benefits of the scheme are that it allows families more flexibility over their work/life balance, and helps the 1 in 7 couples who will statistically struggle to conceive within a few years of trying for a baby. Delaying motherhood can measurably benefit a woman’s career, while having children earlier on in life can delay and disrupt career progression for parents – but particularly for women.

Criticism of the fertility treatment scheme

Criticism of such schemes include the idea that tying the ability to have children to a particular job may cause similar issues to the US, where people can be forced to choose between having a career, or opting for a job with little progression but good reproductive health benefits. Women could also be persuaded to “gamble” their fertility for the sake of their career, hoping to rely on medical treatments later on in life that are not guaranteed to be successful.

Alternatives such as flexible working hours, the option to work from home part or full time, and help with childcare fees may be of more benefit to employees who want children but still wish to progress in their careers. While the scheme is extremely welcome to the estimated 1 in 7 employees who will struggle to conceive, it is only a partial answer to the issue of balancing work with becoming a parent.