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Freezing Life Choices for the Future

12 February 2015

Women who face the choice of either halting their career to start a family or continuing their climb up the corporate ladder, now have a third option available to them, which is growing in demand – freezing their eggs (known medically as “oocyte cryopreservation”). Egg freezing allows women to continue pursuing their career whilst retaining the option to start a family later in life.

Across the pond, Apple, Facebook and NASA have introduced an incentive scheme which attempts to address the choice that some women face by providing its female employees with $20,000 if they wish to freeze their eggs. The hope is that these women can then focus on building their careers without the worry of their biological clock.

Is it something that employers in the UK should be thinking about? The advantage of this incentive is that it allows women greater freedom and flexibility when it comes to their family and career choices. However, there are pitfalls. It has been claimed that such incentives reinforce the fear of some women that having a child is harmful to their career. Further, egg-freezing is expensive: one cycle of egg harvesting should cost between £3,500 and £5,000, according to Dr Nargund, Senior Consultant Gynaecologist and Lead Consultant for Reproductive Medicine services at St George’s Hospital in London. As the industry’s prices are unregulated, costs tend to be higher.

Here in the UK, we proudly have family friendly employment legislation which encourages and aims to protect those that choose to have a family. Shared parental leave for children born after

5 April 2015 has been introduced and men and women will then be able to share leave (and 37 weeks of shared parental pay) during the first year of the child’s life which is aimed at providing families with further freedom and flexibility.

Any UK employer thinking about offering this type of incentive scheme should be cautious over the application of the scheme to women only as it could open up a claim by men for discrimination under the Equalities Act 2010.