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When Priya and her husband discovered they were infertile, it took them $20,000 and years of treatment to conceive a daughter.
A few years later, when they had a son, it was free and relatively painless – thanks in large part to her employer passing the bill and helping arrange the process.
“The whole experience, between what we’ve been through before…and then, is night and day,” said Priya, a senior program manager in Seattle whose company introduced the following infertility treatment program. when giving birth to the first child said.
“Infertility is something you can never plan for,” she continued. “Having the power to make your own decisions, when being mostly infertile means you don’t have any, is a game changer.”
It may sound like a step beyond the scope of the employer’s responsibility, but Priya’s experience is not unique. She’s one of a growing number of employees benefiting from the newest kind of perks in the workplace: fertility benefits.
From egg freezing to in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy, employees are increasingly enjoying the full range of fertility benefits as companies look for new ways to attract top talent. and enhance their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in an increasingly competitive work landscape.
As of 2020, more than two fifths (42%) of major US employers – who have more than 20,000 employees – offer to cover IVF treatment, while nearly one in five (19%) recommend egg freezing. For smaller companies with more than 500 employees, these numbers are 27% and 11%, respectively.
It marks a rapid rise from the mid-2010s when such novelty perks were almost exclusively limited to Silicon Valley forerunners like Facebook and Apple. In 2015, just over a third (36%) major companies offer IVF and only 6% are covered by egg freezing.
And with the coronavirus pandemic shifting personal priorities and increasing employee leverage, many companies are introducing benefits to stay competitive. Today, employers from JP Morgan and Microsoft arrive Unilever and the Boston Consulting Group offer variations of the benefit.
“When organizations started funding egg freezing for the first time, it was quite radical and extraordinary, and it is becoming more and more popular,” said Beth Hale, a partner at CM Murray, a partner at CM Murray. should be much more popular.
Over the past year, Progyny and WINFertility – two leading providers of fertility benefits – have both doubled their client base, now offering packages to employers large and small in a range of industries. industries include finance, pharmaceuticals and FMCG.
WINFertility CEO Roger Shedlin said: “Mass resignations and the resulting historically tight labor market have fueled prevailing trends and pushed employers to deploy more quickly. family building program to attract and retain talent.
This trend comes at a time when more people are looking for fertility treatments, both for medical and non-medical reasons.
Meanwhile, the number of women choosing to freeze their eggs is on the rise – up 1,000% in the US between 2009 and 2016. according to some estimates – and the number of individuals, heterosexual and same-sex couples looking for non-traditional paths to parenthood continues to grow.
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However, the cost of such treatments remains unbelievably high for many people. Regular price for one egg freezing cycle in the US is $11,000, with additional fees including hormone pills ($5,000) and storage ($2,000). IVF treatment can be expensive close to $24,000.
For Aja Harbert, 34, a single human resources manager based in California, the cost of such procedures makes freezing her eggs “financially unsustainable.”
That was until 2020, when her employer introduced a $25,000 lifetime benefit for surrogacy and surrogacy services, which she said gave her the freedom to pursue her career. without sacrificing her parenting prospects.
“I can feel the looming turning point many professional women face – the overwhelming decision to make a career advancement while starting a family,” said Harbert of investment firm B Capital.
“The concept of being able to delay that decision by freezing my eggs is something that fits very well with my personal plans,” she added.
Financial costs aside, often grueling treatment procedures can cost them professionally – as well as mentally and physically – requiring extra support from an employer .
For Harbert, her experience has been “a three-month journey of dozens of doctor’s appointments, daily hormone injections, and a restrictive diet, all while working full-time.”
Dervilla Lannon, 40, vice president of human resources at Silicon Valley-based security startup Verkada, said she’s nervous about starting her first egg-freezing cycle of the month. hey, watching your friend go through the same process. However, with a supportive boss, decision-making becomes much easier, she said.
“It is encouraging that a company that is less than six years old offers this benefit,” said Lannon, who advocates a one-time $10,000 fertility treatment allowance for all employees.
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Studies show that giving back such benefits also goes to employers, with employees who take advantage of them being more likely to return to work after parental leave and employment. Castle.
According to FertilityIQ’s 2019-2020 Family-Building Workplace Index, nearly two-thirds (61%) of employees who received fertility insurance from an employer said they felt more loyal and committed to their job. company.
The same study also found that 88% of women who were fully paid for by their employers with IVF chose to return to their employers after maternity leave, compared with about 50% of the general population who do not regularly receive fertility benefits.
That could be a win for employers as they look to improve representation of women and LGBTQ+, especially in their more senior ranks.
“These benefits are increasingly seen as central to DEI goals,” said Progyny CEO Pete Anevski. “Features benefits can help companies improve gender diversity while showing they value their female workforce.”
However, the proliferation of fertility benefits is not without controversy.
Critics say schemes like IVF and surrogacy can blur the line between employers and employees, leaving recipients feeling indebted when their companies have a lot of stock. more material and financial part of their personal lives.
Meanwhile, pregnancy delay treatments such as egg freezing are said to perpetuate the so-called hustle culture of some fast-paced industries, encouraging parents who would otherwise delay their dreams of raising a child. their children in the name of career success – with no guarantees.
“The problem is if you’re encouraging people in one direction or another,” says CM Murray’s Hale, noting that much of the criticism historically has revolved around perception. After all, workplace benefits must be facilitated, allowing for a better work-life balance, rather than enveloping, encouraging more work.
With the majority of the benefits targeted to parents going to be women – and women in particular – some also argue that existing programs could create a new form of discrimination. , creating little benefit for those who choose not to have children or find their caregiving responsibilities directed elsewhere, such as aged care.
In that regard, Hale said employers should be careful to make sure their interests are gender-neutral and instead make it easier for everyone to manage their families and ” how and if they choose to have one.”
However, beneficiaries and advocacy groups argue that fertility treatments are just one aspect of the full suite of health and wellbeing benefits currently offered by today’s employers. great and should be considered as such.
These benefits are no longer a ‘good-to-have’ perk, but an essential part of an employer’s benefits package,” says Anevski of Progyny.
Meanwhile, for Priya, reflecting on her two pregnancies, she says having an employer who provides fertility services has been – and continues to be – the deciding factor in her career transition. hers. And when employees enjoy greater leverage in a tight job market, that can be the real test of the success of such schemes.
“The world is a very different place than it was five years ago,” says Priya. “We live in a world where families come in all forms. Some are biologically unable to have children, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a family of their own.”