Egg freezing: Positive benefit or negative signal?

Egg freezing policies are becoming more popular at work. But, are they sending the right signal?

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Work-family benefits are on the rise in organizations across the globe. Generally, this is a good thing! We have talked about the positive impacts that focusing on work and family balance can have for employees before.

More recently, you may have heard that some employers are offering to pay for employees to freeze their eggs. While this policy seems positive, recent research shows that it may send a negative signal. Specifically, employees may interpret this policy as a sign that their company wants them to delay having children, in favor of doing work.

What is an egg freezing policy?

Egg freezing policies generally include subsidized costs for employees who want to freeze their eggs. While they were rare in the past, they have become more popular over time. As of 2020, more than 1/5th of employers had instituted an egg freezing policy. These policies are usually considered a “family friendly benefit” and are paired with paid assistance for in vitro fertilization treatments and/or surrogacy.

Egg freezing can be extremely costly for employees to take on themselves. People may choose to freeze their eggs because they want to delay having children for personal or professional reasons. They may also have health conditions that require them to freeze their eggs if they want to have children in the future. Broadly, people are happier when they are able to access family-related medical treatment that they need and want. So, in general, being able to freeze your eggs for a lower cost is a good thing.

Egg freezing policies are helpful, but can send unintended messages to employees.

Egg freezing policies send mixed signals

Yet, recent research shows that egg freezing policies may be sending the signal that employers hope their employees will delay having children. Compared to other work-family policies, this particular policy is about putting off having children until later. This may cause employees to believe that their workplace is offering these policies for their own benefit. In other words, if employers can encourage people to wait to have children, they don’t have to worry about them taking time away from work to care for their kids.

For this reason, egg freezing policies are viewed the most negatively compared to other work-family policies. This includes paid parental leave, flextime, on-site childcare, and IVF policies. This is true even among women who do or may want more children. Overall, employees see a possible ulterior motive associated with these policies and it decreases their positive attitudes toward them.

It can be stressful to think about egg freezing if you think your employer is disingenuous about their support for your work-life balance.

What can be done?

Companies should continue to offer egg freezing policies because they are genuinely helpful to those who need them. But, they should change the way they communicate about them. Many companies position these policies as a great way to delay having a family, in order to focus on your career. But, this is exactly what makes employees feel negatively about them!

In order to reap the positive benefits associated with these policies, and avoid negative backlash, companies should make it clear that they want employees to have and enjoy their families. In other words, egg freezing policies should be positioned as a part of a suite of family-friendly benefits that help employees to have the family life they want. They shouldn’t be sold to employees as a way to continue prioritizing work over family. Rather, they should ensure employees feel their work and family life are able to fit together harmoniously.

Does your company have an egg freezing policy? If so, let leaders know that the way they talk about it matters!

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