Companies should offer fertility treatment to staff in the same way that they offer pensions, according to the Government’s technology tsar.
Eileen Burbidge, a mother-of-five and one of the most powerful businesswomen in Britain, said IVF could be ‘far more relevant’ to many employees than setting aside money for retirement.
© Provided by Daily Mail Eileen Burbidge, pictured, dubbed Queen of the Venture Capitalists, believes firms should consider offering women egg-freezing and fertility treatment rather than pensions
‘We should think about it just like we think about pensions, just like we think about health cover,’ she told The Mail on Sunday.
She argued that pension benefits are ‘probably not going to feel real or tangible to twentysomethings for 40 more years, yet when we talk about reproductive health it’s relevant in your 20s’.
She added: ‘It’s really relevant again in your 40s if you’re still thinking about fertility assistance or if you’re starting to think about menopause. It’s far more relevant, I would say, than pension benefits.’
Ms Burbidge’s comments are likely to spark a fresh debate about work and family planning.
If firms did fund fertility treatment, it would give women more options for conceiving and potentially help many climb higher in their careers.
But some experts warn that waiting longer to try for a child lowers the chances of success, and as IVF is not guaranteed to result in a pregnancy, firms offering to pay for it could give women a false sense of security.
Professor Susan Bewley, an expert in women’s health at King’s College London, said: ‘What are the employers saying? We don’t want any workers with children here? It says mothers aren’t welcome.
‘They are covering up a hostile workplace by offering this supposed family-friendly benefit, but what it’s actually saying is we want you to work every hour of every day.’
© Provided by Daily Mail Ms Burbidge said pensions were not relevant for women in their 20s, though their reproductive health will be far more important at that stage in their life (file photo)
Very few British firms offer fertility treatment as a workplace benefit, although it is becoming increasingly common in the US.
American banking giant Goldman Sachs started offering IVF, egg retrieval, egg donation, and other fertility treatments last year. The bank pays up to a maximum of $40,000 under the plan to any employee. Tech giants Apple, Facebook, and LinkedIn also offer fertility plans in the UK.
Ms Burbidge, 49, is the Government’s special envoy championing financial technology innovation around the world and was awarded an MBE in 2015.
She sits on the board of Dixons Carphone and is also a partner in Passion Capital, which funds tech start-ups including digital bank Monzo. Passion Capital has invested £650 million in Fertifa, a fertility benefits company that works with employers to offer their staff fertility treatments.
‘I do think it needs to become part of the workplace conversation,’ Ms Burbidge said, adding: ‘I would have been really grateful if workplaces where I’d worked in the past had provided this benefit.’