Hot topic: Fertility benefits, part two

Nearly a third (31%) of employees would like to see employers fund fertility treatments such as IVF and egg freezing, according to research from Willis Towers Watson

However, offering these benefits can be challenging and expensive, so should businesses consider rolling them out? Or do the ethical and financial implications make this too big a risk?

Mike Blake, wellbeing lead at Willis Towers Watson, says:

"We know that trying to access NHS-funded fertility treatments can be extremely difficult for some couples. Furthermore, the cost of private treatments can be a significant financial burden and in some cases may even prove prohibitive.

"However, companies like Facebook and Google are among those that have been criticised for introducing such policies, with many seeing this as an attempt to keep women in work for longer. So HR should think carefully about how they implement this.

"The introduction of egg freezing as a benefit, notably among the tech giants of Silicon Valley, has sparked controversy in some quarters and can risk raising suspicions around employer motivations. While companies may appear forward-thinking and supportive by offering fertility treatments, employers should tread carefully to avoid a backlash."

Dawn Moore, HR director at Morgan Sindall, says:

"It’s worrying to hear that so many young people feel the need to receive these kinds of benefits. And you have to wonder about some of the motivations involved in employers wanting to introduce them.

"If it’s just that they want to offer employees a benefit that can be difficult for them to get without a lot of financial help then that’s great. However, this could be seen by many as a coercive attempt to get women to stay in the workplace for longer and hold off on having children.

"If that’s the case then this is a sign that employers are not doing enough to support working parents. If employers genuinely want to help women not to have to make a choice between their families and their careers then flexible working policies, reviewing opportunities for progression, and implementing a returners programme all seem much safer options."

Read the first part of this hot topic. This piece appears in the current print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk