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Should companies help their employees with the cost of fertility treatments?

PUBLISHED: 13:36 24 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:36 24 July 2019

One in ten employees are in favour of benfits that subsidise fertility treatments Picture: SHUTTERSTOCK

One in ten employees are in favour of benfits that subsidise fertility treatments Picture: SHUTTERSTOCK

Willis Towers Watson/Shutterstock

Research from Willis Towers Watson finds more than one in ten workers from East Anglia are in favour of fertility benefits.

Willis Towers Watson's iconic building in central Ipswich Picture: GREGG BROWNWillis Towers Watson's iconic building in central Ipswich Picture: GREGG BROWN

More than one in ten workers from East Anglia would like employers to offer help with funding fertility treatments, according to a new study. The research from insurance brokerage firm Willis Towers Watson found that 14% of workers believe fertility benefits, such as egg freezing or subsidised IVF, should be offered as a company benefit.

According to the global firm, which is one of Ipswich's biggest employers with more than 1,000 people working for the company in the town, almost one third (31%) of East Anglian respondents cited the high cost of private treatment as one of the biggest reasons for this.

The same proportion said they were concerned about restricted NHS treatment, 23% believed it would offer improved career opportunities while 15% said it would reduce the time pressures of having children too quickly.

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While many company health insurance policies will ordinarily cover underlying medical conditions related to infertility, they do not typically cover fertility treatments, such as IVF.

According to Mike Blake, who leads on wellbeing at Willis Towers Watson, the findings chime with trends in the US where increasing numbers of employers are now supporting employees on their path to parenthood.

"Their counterparts in the UK should consider the recruitment and retention benefits of following their lead," he said.

Mike Blake, wellbeing lead at Willis Towers WatsonMike Blake, wellbeing lead at Willis Towers Watson

"One in seven UK couples face difficulties trying to conceive, yet restrictions in NHS funded treatments have been widely reported in recent years, with postcode variations in access to services. Furthermore, the cost of private fertility treatments can be a significant financial burden, and in some cases, may even prove prohibitive."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the research, conducted among 2,000 workers across the UK, found the number of workers nationwide calling for fertility treatments to be offered by employers was highest among younger employees (31% of 18-to-34 year-olds). The figures fell to 20% for all UK workers and dropped to just 6% among workers aged over 55.

But while companies may appear forward-thinking and supportive by offering fertility treatments, Mr Blake advises employers tread carefully to avoid a backlash.

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He added: "The introduction of egg-freezing as a benefit, for example - notably among the tech giants of Silicon Valley - has sparked controversy in some quarters and can risk raising suspicions around employer motivations."

This sentiment is backed up in the study, which found that almost one in four UK workers said that if their employer were to offer egg freezing as a benefit, they would view this as a selfish attempt to retain talent for longer.

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