Egg freezing for employees? An HR lesson from Apple and Facebook

When it comes to employee benefits, none come more controversial than the initiative to provide funding for freezing female employees’ eggs, as hit the headlines last month.

By Karen Credie, KMCHR.

The initiative, announced by Apple and Facebook in October, sees female staff eligible to receive $20,000 to fund medical treatment for freezing their eggs, thus delaying the need for women to take time off for childbearing until further into their careers.

Now, whilst I’m all for providing staff benefits that allow for a happy and motivated workforce, and even attracting people to work at your organisation in the first place, this initiative certainly is questionable on a number of grounds.

For one, it sends a certain message to female employees – that having a family and pursuing a successful career are not compatible and that their contribution to the workplace is somehow not as valuable once they become mothers. This is, of course, treading on dangerous ground indeed. Furthermore, if some female employees chose not to take up the offer of the treatment, would they somehow be viewed as less committed to their careers? And could this give rise to potential discrimination claims?

In addition to these inferences, one has to look at the wider message Apple and Facebook are sending to potential employees and the world at large; that they have such a fast paced and tough working environment that it isn’t possible to have a family life whilst working there. When you look at it this way, what was conceived as an employee benefit quickly becomes a potentially off-putting message. Whilst I doubt that any of the businesses I work with in the North West would look to launch any egg freezing initiatives for employees any time soon, this case does raise an important lesson from an HR perspective – that businesses need to think carefully of all the implications before implementing any employee benefit schemes. Offering something different and thinking out the box can help you to retain existing staff and set you apart as a potential employer, but be careful of the message you are sending out to avoid ending up with egg on your face!