Egg freezing is here to stay. The procedure has increased tenfold over the last decade according to figures by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Egg freezing is a way to preserve fertility by collecting and freezing your eggs to use at a later date. As more and more people start building families later in life, freezing your eggs when they are of a high quality is beginning to look like an attractive option for women, as well as trans and non-binary people who want to keep the option of having children open if they plan on undergoing hormone treatments or other gender-affirming procedures. The practice also appeals to women who are about to undergo intense medical procedures, such as chemotherapy, or those who live with conditions like endometriosis that could impact fertility.
Egg freezing has become the fastest growing fertility procedure, booming alongside a UK-wide decrease in support for fertility treatments from the NHS. In 2019, the NHS accounted for just 20-30% of funding for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in some parts of England, compared to up to 62% in Scotland, meaning the availability of fertility assistance is largely a postcode lottery. Meanwhile, egg freezing is not available on the NHS. This places an incentive on employers to offer fertility treatments, as it becomes increasingly difficult to access them from public health services.
With Covid-19 shining a light on wellbeing at work, employers looked to increase workplace benefits in an effort to retain talent. The US saw a 500% increase in companies offering family-building benefits to employees between 2019 and 2020. Companies like Facebook and Google made headlines in the 2010s for introducing egg freezing as a “perk” for its employees, and several health-tech and fem-tech startups have emerged in recent years focusing on connecting employees to fertility doctors. Syrona, for example, offers fertility and pregnancy support packages for employers.
So what are the benefits of offering egg freezing to employees? A woman’s fertility starts to decrease significantly around her mid-30s, a time which for many women coincides with landing in a job they enjoy or reaching a happy point in their personal lives. With many people experiencing job and financial instability in their 20s and early 30s, having children may not be on the agenda. A great irony for many women is that just as they’re starting to feel content and secure in their professional and social lives, they feel pressure to have kids in an attempt to beat the “biological clock”. Just having the option of freezing your eggs can alleviate a lot of this anxiety that will inevitably seep into your personal and professional lives.
The average cost of having your eggs frozen is £3,350, with added medication costing between £500 and £1,500. On top of that, storage costs span from £125 to £350 per year. The process of thawing eggs and transferring them to the womb averages about £2,500. Unsurprisingly, the cost of egg freezing deters many people from even considering it. Including egg freezing in your company benefits, then, is a way to reduce the financial burden of a fertility trend that is only going to continue to grow.
Not only will egg freezing as a work benefit offer peace of mind for employees thinking about starting a family, but it will bolster a company’s reputation as a place that cares about its workers. One US survey found that 68% of workers would switch jobs for a better fertility policy, a trend that due to declining fertility help from the NHS is being mirrored in the UK.
Offering egg freezing to employees entails financial support as well as clinical guidance; for something as complex as fertility, people require personalised support that can be tricky to find. As an employer, providing fertility benefits can streamline this process for employees so that they feel financially protected as well as safe and guided through a potentially confusing and nerve-wracking time.
There are several ways to offer egg freezing to employees. Some UK companies, like McKinsey and Goldman Sachs, offer their employees a cash payment reimbursement or a flat fee for family planning. Syrona for example provides egg-freezing by providing Employers with a trusted network of partner clinics at discounted prices to benefit from in addition to consultations with fertility nurses, therapists and a community to discuss their journey with.
Workplace culture is going through major changes. At a time when companies are transforming to accommodate their employees, egg freezing is a benefit that can make a real change in someone’s life in addition to being a business justification for staff retention.
This article was written for Syrona by Emma Olsson.