EletiofeMore Companies Offer Fertility Benefits. It’s Only the Beginning

More Companies Offer Fertility Benefits. It’s Only the Beginning

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About a fifth (19 percent) of US employers with over 500 employees covered egg freezing in 2020, compared to 5 percent in 2015, according to a Mercer survey. As for organizations with a headcount of 20,000 or more, 19 percent did so in 2020, up from 6 percent in 2015. Spearheaded by companies in the Bay Area, the idea is taking off across the wider US corporate sphere, and gaining popularity in Europe too.

“Before, HR departments didn’t offer it because they assumed the government was taking care of employees, and that European health care systems were great,” explains Jenny Saft, cofounder of the Berlin-based fertility benefits platform, Oviavo, which operates across the continent. “We had to explain that’s not the case for fertility—there are tons of gaps.” From the UK’s IVF postcode lottery to Germany’s unwillingness to include same-sex couples and single women in its assisted reproduction laws, getting state-provided fertility care is a pipe dream for many Europeans. In Ireland, where numerous Silicon Valley firms have a major presence, there is no state funding for assisted reproduction.

In the past six months, several UK-based companies, including Natwest, Centrica, Clifford Chance, and Cooley launched fertility benefits programs to the tune of £45,000 per employee. Employers are scrambling to help out—or lose out, with staff liable to move somewhere that does offer it. But despite being able to cash in on the perk themselves, some employees have mixed feelings.

“I see both sides—on the one, it’s nefarious because, by giving this benefit, companies keep people in the chair for longer and get more work from them,” says Foy. “On the other, I’m now able to bring my full self to the table—a woman of color, a lawyer in her thirties, single and wanting to build a family someday.”

This quid pro quo approach led Heather to explore sponsored egg freezing. She asked not to use her real name to maintain privacy with her employer, a multinational tech firm in London. “I see it as another benefit and try to take advantage of all of what’s offered to me,” she says. Due to her polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)—which can cause infertility—she can get three rounds and three years of storage, totaling over £30,000, covered through her company’s benefits provider Apricity. After three years of storage, Heather will pay for it herself, which is around £400 annually.

After hearing horror stories about side effects of fertility treatment from family and friends in the US, she sought advice from her longtime gynecologist. “He made me feel so bad,” she recalls. “He was aggressive, saying it was dangerous and risky—he was like, ‘If you want to have a baby, have a baby.’” While this reaction was extreme, experts caution women against seeing egg freezing as insurance against infertility. According to the most recent statistics from the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), women who use their own previously frozen eggs have on average an 18 percent chance of having a baby. By comparison, the success rate for IVF is 26 percent.

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