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Should employers subsidise fertility treatments to help staff become parents?

PUBLISHED: 19:57 23 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:46 24 July 2019

A couple in a fertility consultation. It has been suggested that employers should subsidise treatments Picture: WILLIS TOWERS WATSON/SHUTTERSTOCK

A couple in a fertility consultation. It has been suggested that employers should subsidise treatments Picture: WILLIS TOWERS WATSON/SHUTTERSTOCK

Willis Towers Watson/Shutterstock

More than one in ten workers in East Anglia would like to see employers offer subsidised fertility treatments - according to a new survey.

In the research by Willis Towers Watson, who have a major office in Friars Street, Ipswich, 14% of employees in the region backed calls for fertility benefits such as support for IVF and egg freezing.

Almost one third (31 per cent) of East Anglian respondents cited the high cost of private treatment as one of the biggest reasons, while 31% also said they were concerned about restricted NHS treatment.

Mike Blake, Willis Towers Watson's wellbeing lead, said: "Increasing numbers of employers across the US 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."

Nancy Sloan-Capasso, co-ordinator for the Ipswich-based pregnancy support charity Perspectives, said: "I would say that any kind of financial support would be welcome.

"It might also give women the confidence to talk about IVF to their employers and take time off when needed, because often they are nervous about talking about it."

In the survey, 23% of people from the region believed access to subsidised fertility treatments would offer improved career opportunities.

And 15% said it would reduce the time pressures of having children too quickly.

There have been cutbacks in free IVF treatment in East Anglia over recent years - with all CCGs in Suffolk currently refusing to provide the three full IVF cycles recommended by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).

Couples can receive a maximum of just two cycles across Suffolk, while in the North East Essex CCG area no cycles at all are offered.

There are also other criteria for treatment, and last year it was reported that some couples in Suffolk are being turned down for fertility treatment because men are too old or overweight.

Because of the lack of free treatment, six out of 10 IVF cycles in the UK are funded by patients themselves, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

The new research, conducted among 2,000 workers across the UK, found calls for fertility treatments to be offered by employers was highest among younger employees, with 31% of 18-to-34 year-olds backing the idea.

On the negative side, however, 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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