Big businesses are offering staff free or subsidised fertility treatment worth up to £60,000 – including Netflix, Apple, Spotify and Facebook – with M&S, British Gas and the Co-op also getting in on the act, MailOnline can reveal today.
Up to £16,000 towards the cost of harvesting and storing eggs, interest free loans for IVF courses and weeks of paid time off to see fertility doctors in the UK or abroad are also among the ‘ultimate’ perks offered by businesses in Britain.
And with male infertility on the rise, men are also being given free or cheap access to sperm freezing, fertility testing and treatments, counselling services, and flexible working to see specialists – even from day one of starting a job.
Staff who have used the perk have saved tens of thousands of pounds on average – and been given paid time off to have treatment across Europe and the US.
More and more workers are also being offered fertility care to ease the financial burden of treatment. And the perks also benefit women acting as surrogates and gay couples who want to become parents. But some doctors have said that it has become a ‘marketing exercise’ for companies who ‘want to make themselves look good to the world’.
Netflix apparently offers employees around £60,000 ($75,000) for ‘family forming and reproductive support’, which some workers said they used to pay for two ‘free’ rounds of IVF. It’s available to staff and their partners, regardless of marital status, gender, or sexual orientation.
The trend began in Silicon Valley as its tech firms tried to retain staff amid fierce competition from rivals. Spotify gives London employees £40,000 towards treatment, Apple and Facebook owner Meta pay towards egg freezing to the tune of nearly £20,000.
NatWest offers employee discounts for treatments including sperm freezing, while British Gas owner Centrica has a partnership with one of a growing number of private fertility companies.
More and more big businesses, including high street giants, are offering perks for staff to have IVF, freeze eggs or other fertility support
Co-op worker Catherine Turner, 43, and her son Theo, three, who was supported through her bossees
Major law firms such as Cooleys have put together fertility perks worth £45,000, investment bank Goldman Sachs will hand over £15,500 towards treatments and LinkedIn says staff and their partners can claim back up to £23,000 for IVF and other fertility costs.
And it has now spread to the High Street with M&S, the Co-op and SpaceNK bringing in policies offering financial support to staff trying for a baby with medical treatment.
Co-op worker Catherine Turner, 43, had her son Theo three years ago, and says the retail giant’s support during more than half a dozen IVF rounds was invaluable.
Ms Turner decided to go it alone and have a child after a relationship failed, and after several years and multiple trips to clinics in the UK and eventually Greece, she had the child she desperately wanted.
She told MailOnline: ‘I’ve worked at Co-op for almost 17 years and had always wanted to have children. During my mid 30’s I decided after the end of a relationship, it was now or never to start a family and I began researching the options available to me.
‘I visited a fertility clinic and embarked on a long journey to starting my family. After starting the process, it became apparent that things weren’t going to be straightforward for me to fall pregnant – in total, it took 8 rounds of IVF over a number of years before I was successful, starting the journey in the UK and then ultimately moving my treatment abroad to a clinic in Greece.
‘The journey was much more difficult than I had ever imagined – both physically and emotionally. The need to attend scans and appointments at short notice, remembering to take medication at regular intervals, the logistics of arranging transport, travel and accommodation and the emotional impact of failed rounds and early pregnancy losses cannot be underestimated.
‘Having an employer, who recognises this, and who I was able to be open with, really helped take some of the stress and pressure away. The ability to have leave for fertility reasons was invaluable, and enabled me to have my longed for family.’
Fertility Network UK estimates that one in six couples are struggling to conceive – 3.5million people in the UK – and those who seek medical help can be left with bills of £13,750 on average for IVF.
Egg harvesting alone can cost £6,000 plus £400-a-year for storage can leave some couples with ruinous debts of £100,000 or more.
Solo mum Catherine Turner was allowed time off to travel to Greece and had Theo after eight gruelling rounds of IVF
One couple in their mid-30s, who could not get treatment on the NHS, say they saved £30,000 through work.
Emily told the Evening Standard: ‘When we found out about the fertility benefits, our jaws just dropped. We couldn’t believe our luck because we’d already started thinking about starting a family. It just felt like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe we’ve got access to this.
‘It’s a crazy amount and paying for it ourselves would have really stretched us. It’s made us a lot more financially comfortable that we didn’t have to’.
Helen Beedham, co-founder of the Workplace Fertility Community had her daughter via IVF more than a decade ago, says companies are offering fertility help because staff felt unsupported – and will now leave to seek it elsewhere.
She said: ‘I was going across London twice a day for blood tests and injecting in my client’s loos. It was a huge amount to juggle personally and financially. And it was definitely seen as a ‘women’s issue’ — I think there’s more understanding now that men can have fertility problems, too’.
She added: ‘The pandemic gave us a far greater understanding that we are people outside the office, with home lives that matter just as much as work. People are more prepared to stand up for what they want and what matters to them, and they’re moving jobs if they’re not getting that support’.
Co-op staff get paid time off if they’re undergoing treatment themselves, including if they are a surrogate.
This time off is flexible and unrestricted and includes paid leave for up to ten appointments per cycle of IVF, for up to three cycles of fertility treatment.
M&S are also supporting staff in this way.
A spokesman told MailOnline: ‘Last year we launched a dedicated fertility treatment policy giving colleagues up to 10 days off to attend appointments for up to three rounds of fertility treatment.
Cosmetic store SpaceNK have started offering fertility heath assessments, vouchers or discount for treatment and interest free ‘fertility loans’ of up to £5,000-a-year.
Investment firm Balderton Capital offers a cash ‘wallet’ of fertility benefits.
HR chief Chantal Cantle said: ‘We didn’t want to give the impression that we were saying, ‘right, ladies, you’ve got to freeze your eggs if you want to have a job here’.
‘There was a lot of navel gazing. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh yeah, let’s get that [policy] off the shelf’.’
She added that the ‘wallet’ can be used for fertility treatment and support through the menopause.
‘It all remains anonymous, we just see an amount and that is then paid,’ she said.
Cheney Hamilton, CEO at The Find Your Flex Group, told MailOnline that fertility treatment is amongst the ‘ultimate’ workplace perk for some staff, depending on their needs and age.
She said: ‘I would imagine that companies which are predominantly based in the South (and London) who are known to have more senior working women who wait a little longer to have children, then this will certainly be a benefit’.
But some are cautious about companies offering the perks if it eats into employee rights.
Dr Lucy van de Wiel, lecturer in global health and social medicine at King’s College London, told the Standard: ‘At an individual level, it’s great to have your costs covered. But the question is whether we want to give that kind of power over our private lives to our employers.
‘It’s presented like “oh, we really care about you” — and hopefully they do — but it’s also a way of retaining or attracting people. They invest in these policies to make themselves look good to the world’.
She added: ‘It can easily become a marketing exercise where people are being made to feel that they should be concerned about their fertility. Are you solving a problem or creating one?’