Apple and Facebook to Pay For Female Employees to Freeze Their Eggs
Many companies offer family-friendly benefits such as extended maternity leave, paid paternity leave, or on-premises daycare. These perks have become almost standard in certain high-paying industries, and likely stem from employers’ recognition that happy, respected, and fulfilled employees are more likely to be productive employees. Facebook and Apple have taken this concept even further with their recent decisions to begin offering their female employees up to $20,000 to cover the costs of freezing their eggs for non-medical reasons.
To be sure, this is an extraordinary benefit for employees. The cost of a single round of the egg-freezing procedure can run approximately $10,000 (doctors recommend extracting 20 eggs over the course of two sessions), with a $500 annual storage fee for the frozen eggs. Although the procedure is not guaranteed to be successful, many female employees offered this new $20,000 benefit may be encouraged to give it a try, citing a variety of non-medical reasons, such as not yet finding “Mr. Right” or wanting to attain greater financial security before having children.
For a company like Facebook, which already offers several family-friendly benefits such as paid maternity and paternity leave, assistance with daycare and adoption fees, and even $4000 “baby cash” to be used upon the arrival of an employee’s newborn, this new egg-freezing subsidy could be seen as simply rounding out its available benefit options for would-be parents.
However, an employer’s decision to offer this type of egg-freezing benefit is not without risk, especially when the employer does not already offer a wide panoply of family-oriented perks. Female employees, particularly those who are required to work long hours, might feel implicitly encouraged by their employer to “put off” starting families and keep their noses to the grindstone. In addition, employees who choose to take advantage of this benefit might feel more beholden to, and ultimately resentful of, their employer – after all, it is one thing to leave an employer that pays for your gym membership, it might be another thing entirely to leave an employer who paid to freeze your eggs. And male employees or female employees who are not of a suitable age for the procedure (doctors generally do not recommend that women over the age of 38 freeze their eggs) may feel slighted by their employer’s offer of a benefit that they physically cannot take advantage of.
But an employer’s offer to pay for egg-freezing might raise an even deeper concern among female employees of child-bearing age and, indeed, employees of both genders who are in search of the ever-elusive “work-life balance.” Those employees may worry that, in their employer’s view, employees with child-rearing responsibilities simply cannot perform to the same level (both in terms of quantity and quality) as those without children. In other words, an employer’s offer to subsidize egg-freezing might be construed as a tacit admission that employees, particularly female employees, need to remain childless as long as possible in order to “get ahead,” and that this benefit provides an opportunity to prolong the arrival of the inevitable career impediment accompanying pregnancy and parenting.
Some of these negative connotations can be tempered by the way an employer presents its decision to begin paying for its employees’ egg-freezing procedures. For instance, an employer’s concurrent offer of other benefits that assist employees who already have children, such as subsidized and on-site day care, flexible and part-time schedules, and extended paid sick leave, may ameliorate any concerns that the employer is hostile to employees with families. Overall, an employer’s decision to offer any benefit that will afford employees greater control and flexibility in managing their family and work lives is an unquestionably positive development. Employers should remain mindful that, as with most other employment decisions, communication and sensitivity to employee concerns are critical.