Breast milk couriers and sponsored egg freezing – what does it mean for employers in the UK?


Breast milk couriers for travelling mothers and funded egg freezing services are some attention grabbing examples of a new range of benefits being offered by employers to their staff.

Benefit packages have long been a way to attract and retain talent. Employers usually offer some combination of bonus schemes, share plans, and insurance schemes among other things to achieve this. But now a new wave of fertility and family-based employee benefits are on the horizon.

Technology firms, particularly in the United States, are leading the way. Apple and Facebook will now pay for their staff to freeze their eggs. eBay will sponsor an unlimited number of IVF cycles. Spotify goes even further, offering unlimited IVF cycles with the addition of pre-authorisation for insurance purposes. What this means is that employees have advance clearance from their insurers and so can receive IVF treatment without insurance approval holding up the process. This is especially significant in the US where personal insurance plans are more common than they are in the UK. It is also increasingly relevant in the UK as an increasing number of us have either occupational and/or private insurance policies.

UK employers are beginning to offer similar benefits at an increasing rate. A problem in the making, however, is the mid-market's attempts to keep up with the sector giants. Businesses operating on smaller scales inevitably need to diversify their offering to remain competitive but they must be careful not to overextend themselves. Some businesses cannot afford to roll out such schemes. Those businesses should resist pressure to offer what they cannot afford. There will be little use is being competitive if the business runs itself into the ground because of unsustainable labour costs.

Most of us will sympathise with the sentiment that "the company that helps you build your family is the company that you remain committed to".  Nonetheless, some complain that businesses are self-serving. Some businesses will offer these benefits only because of how it ultimately benefits them. Arguably, this may be particularly true of the technology sector. Equally, this may be a fair cynicism as a number of the companies in this space offered these benefits following run-ins with the #metoo movement.

Even if this is an accurate analysis, offering benefits has and will always be geared towards protecting a stable and growing business. We should not spend too much time complaining about this. The important step is that those businesses are apparently learning from their past mistakes and working towards providing more inclusive and accommodating workplaces.

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“The company that helps you build your family is the company that you remain committed to.”
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