Letting your boss know you’re trying to have a baby used to be taboo in the office, but recently a small but growing number of companies in the UK have started offering fertility benefits to their staff.
Energy supplier Centrica and law firms Cooley and Clifford Chance are the latest to at least partially fund the costs of treatments like IVF for their employees.
Benefits range from free consultations and drug discounts to a package worth up to £ 45,000 per person, offered by Cooley.
And it’s not just the financial help that matters, say employees, but the ability to work flexibly around the many fertility tests that are often scheduled for the short term.
“The company supported me”
“It all depends on your eggs, your hormones and your cycle,” says Hortense Thorpe, a Surrey-based Centrica employee who underwent three rounds of IVF at a private clinic after she failed to qualify for it. treatment of the NHS in his area.
“With your hormones they watch every day and then it’s a decision they make and say – okay, you have to come tomorrow.”
“I should go to London for a CT scan every other day, then there’s the egg retrieval and the embryo implantation, those are days when you have to take time off work because you can’t being back to work that day, usually you have anesthetics, ”she adds.
The benefits of Centrica helped cut the rising costs of IVF, Hortense says, and being open with her manager about what she was going through made the juggling work and unpredictable schedule of treatment much more fluid.
“It made things a lot less stressful and it really took a lot of weight off me knowing that my business was supporting me, and it was good for me to take that last minute leave, or to have to be absent, to have to working from the clinic, but still reachable by phone, and finding flexible adjustments to the way I work, that makes a huge difference. “
Good business sense
However, fertility benefits are still relatively scarce in the UK and, as IVF treatment is not protected by equality law, many employees may think it could harm their careers if they told their superiors that they are trying to get pregnant.
But with one in seven couples struggling to conceive, according to the NHS, some bosses say providing workers with financial and career support to become parents is good for business.
“I think this is the opportunity to give our employees the best, happiest and most fulfilling life they can have with the idea that if they have a happy and fulfilled life at home , they will perform better at work, and we can retain and attract some of the best talent in the world, ”says Ann Cairns, executive vice president of Mastercard, which provides financial support for fertility treatment, surrogacy or adoption, if they are not covered by an employee’s medical insurance, in all markets in which they operate.
“We want to attract the best talent, and to have the best talent, you really have to think of the whole person,” she adds.
Changing the corporate culture
Campaigners say funding IVF is a welcome move, and better than freezing eggs, which critics say could encourage workers to delay their attempts to start a family.
But Laura Whitcombe, director of the club’s 30% global campaign, a business campaign to increase the number of women on boards and leaders, says some aspects of corporate culture need to change as well.
She told Sky News: “Having policies that focus on the beginning of the parenting journey is a really positive step, but it needs to be followed through with whatever comes next.
“It’s flexible work, it’s remote work, other opportunities for advancement.”
She added: “If a company’s culture doesn’t include parents, if it doesn’t invest in ensuring that parents returning from leave have what they need to advance in their careers, that’s pretty superficial. . “
In the past, employees often hid family issues from their office life, but that is slowly changing.
And some employers, it seems, are catching up.