The need to remain competitive has become more important than ever at a time when it is estimated that 41% of employees worldwide are considering leaving their jobs or changing their profession. As companies struggle to find enough workers, an increasing number of companies are offering creative benefits to attract and keep employees. In the UK, Natwest, Centrica, Clifford Chance, and Cooley all introduced programmes to pay up to £45,000 in fertility benefits since 2021.
While reproductive benefits were formerly thought to be exclusive to the tech industry, they are now beginning to appear in job packages in a variety of different fields. Fertility-based benefits, such as IVF and paid surrogacy, are increasingly becoming something that employees would like as a benefit. Many employers believe that providing their employees with access to fertility treatments could enhance diversity, increase employee engagement, and create a positive workplace culture.
Employer-sponsored programmes frequently cover "elective egg freezing" in addition to "medical egg freezing," if a woman's fertility is at risk due to endometriosis or sickle cell anaemia. They also frequently cover IVF, adoption, donor and surrogacy services, fertility assessments, and education. Private third-party reproductive and family care companies like Kindbody and Carrot, which have experienced tremendous growth during the epidemic, manage the procedures.
Are fertility benefits aiding or confining employees?
Despite the existence of policies, Dr. Lauren Kuykendall, an associate professor of industrial-organisational psychology at George Mason University in Virginia, US, notes that employees might not necessarily feel empowered to utilise them.
Employees who take advantage of programmes that provide them with more time off the job, such as parental leave and remote work, worry that they will be seen as less committed to their profession, according to the expert. As such, organisations must foster an environment where employees are not afraid to use these benefits when they are available.
She also adds that certain policies that appear to be family-friendly at first glance might really have the opposite impact. For example "Egg freezing allows employees to delay having children, reducing competing pressures between work and family,". She also explains that "Employees who are considering having children at an early career stage may be concerned that doing so will reflect a lack of commitment to work, and giving the option of egg freezing may aggravate these anxieties." The policy itself might be regarded as a recommendation to postpone having children.
Critics also contend that it is essential to distinguish between "confining" benefits, which promote more office time, and "aiding" benefits, which let employees spend more time away from work (such as parental leave and IVF treatments). Thus, the option of egg-freezing may be seen as a benefit that keeps staff confined to their workstations, along with late-night food delivery and on-site gyms. However, this is not to imply that the advantages of freezing eggs are necessarily bad; rather, it is to stress that companies should carefully evaluate all of the potential repercussions.
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What are the benefits of fertility perks in the future?
HR managers have a problem as more firms think about implementing or increasing fertility benefits in the foreseeable future. They have to think about the benefits that will truly increase employee morale without causing conflict. Numerous HR professionals agree that in the future, advantages like egg-freezing and IVF will play a significant role in diversity and inclusion programmes since prospective workers are increasingly inquiring about reproductive benefits during interviews, including BIPOC and LGBTQ+ employees, who may experience medical prejudice and generally poor health outcomes. As such, while managing reproductive and sexual healthcare, perks related to fertility can have a specific positive impact.
Critics, however, are less persuaded, contending that rather than a significant drive towards benefits centred on reproduction, we may soon witness the emergence of more flexible systems that serve various types of families. They also claim that there has been a significant increase in the number of businesses giving their employees stipends with the option to utilise the money for eldercare, day-care, or reproductive treatments. Which is why in today's society where moving towards personalisation is commonly becoming the new normal, human resources are quickly accepting the concept that benefits offered by a firm should be inclusive and available to all, rather than exclusive and serving the demands of a select few.