By Lyndsey Hall
The options available to parents, and potential parents, have increased exponentially in the last year: want to split the maternity leave equally with your partner? Go ahead! Want to go back to work full time after 6 weeks and let Dad take over with baby? Be our guest! But now, it seems the latest trend is for employers to offer fertility treatment as a perk for women who chose to focus on their career until later in life.
Two tech Giants in Silicon Valley are offering to freeze their female employees’ eggs for free as a company benefit, in a bid to encourage women to delay their biological clock and stay in the workforce. Facebook has already initiated the program, whilst Apple will begin offering the perk from January onwards, according to TIME.
Is the new work/life balance about putting off having children until your career is established, and letting your employer pay for the privilege?
What does this new perk really mean for employers and their female employees? IVF isn’t cheap, and the cost of freezing the eggs isn’t the only fee that needs to be covered. Are Facebook and Apple also offering to pay for any eventual treatment necessary when the time comes to defrost the eggs? It seems not: the estimated cost of freezing a batch of eggs is $10,000, and maintenance costs a further $500 per year. According to Forbes, the two tech giants are offering up to $20,000 for the procedure under their health benefit programs. This means women could potentially delay childbearing for up to 20 years, without having to pay for it themselves, but when they eventually decide to use the eggs they’re on their own.
In order to have the best chance of harvesting fertile eggs, time is of the essence. Women under the age of 30 have greater success at getting pregnant, so the best time to freeze your eggs is in your 20s. If a 25 year old woman decides to freeze her eggs, she could potentially postpone motherhood until she is 45, meaning that she could reach the peak of her career potential before taking time out to raise her children. But, is this a norm that we want to encourage?
For some women, ‘not now’ could become ‘not ever’, with increasing career pressures and potential fertility issues there may never be a right time to start a family.
Unfortunately, whilst intentions are usually good – if somewhat company centric – changes like this can often effect expectations of employers and colleagues. For example, female employees could feel pressured into delaying motherhood and freezing their eggs in order to get ahead in their careers. Company bosses could begin to expect women to work longer and have children later, subconsciously favouring those that do. Colleagues may come to resent women who choose to have children earlier, and then require flexibility to fit their work life around their home life. It is a slippery slope, and will take careful manoeuvring for businesses to ensure that it turns out to be a positive change rather than a negative one.
What are your thoughts on the move by Facebook and Apple to give women more options? Would you ever consider freezing your, or your partner’s eggs in order to continue building a career? Does the program appeal to you, or do you believe that these companies are manipulating the situation to benefit themselves? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments or on Twitter @KnowlesWarwick.