Employee benefits include egg freezing for some
Tonya Johnson, 39, is single, happy and freezing her eggs to buy a little more time before starting a family.
The procedure is costly. up to $15,000 per round of medicated egg freezing, making it out of reach for many.
But Johnson works for one of a growing number of Canadian companies offering egg freezing as an employee health benefit.
“I’ve spent most of my 30s working on my career, but I’d like to have a family one day. It hasn’t happened to me yet,” said Johnson, Snap Inc.’s head of communications for Canada and Latin America. ., the company behind the social media app Snapchat.
“Egg freezing provides me with a real sense of freedom and control over my fertility journey.”
Fertility preservation, or egg or sperm freezing, is offered by some employers as part of an expanded package of fertility and family planning benefits.
Experts say supplemental health coverage gives some companies an edge in the labor market when it comes to retaining and recruiting workers.
Added benefits significantly sweeten a worker’s total compensation, or the cost of wages, health insurance and other benefits, they say.
“I work with a lot of women in their 30s who say they feel their biological clock ticking,” says Cindy Marquez, a certified financial planner and director of Open Access, a provider of group retirement plans.
“They often want to start saving for freezing their eggs or possibly IVF, and that’s certainly not cheap,” she said. “Having a workplace provide some coverage for these procedures would be a significant financial benefit.”
However, Marquez cautioned that workers should be aware of ongoing fees after the procedure and be prepared to shoulder the costs if they leave their company.
Egg storage is often free after a few months, but can cost up to $50 per month or $600 per year.
While egg freezing is gradually becoming more mainstream in Canada, only about five percent of companies offer fertility benefits that include the procedure, compared with about 40 percent in the U.S., according to a report by national fertility organization Fertility Matters Canada.
Leading the way are tech companies, especially those with big US parents like Google, Apple and Meta. Snap is among the most generous, with employees eligible for up to $65,000 in fertility and adoption coverage through Carrot Fertility and up to $130,000 for surrogacy expenses.
Canadian banks and telecoms are also raising family benefits. Scotiabank, for example, covers up to $10,000 each for fertility, adoption and surrogacy support, while Telus pays up to $15,000 in fertility costs, including egg freezing.
The expansion of employer fertility coverage reflects growing demand for services such as egg freezing, which has increased during the pandemic, according to Fertility Matters Canada.
Evolve, which opened in Toronto last March, says it’s Canada’s first fertility clinic dedicated to egg freezing and is now booked up months in advance.
“Since opening our doors, Evolve has seen an overwhelming demand for egg freezing information and support,” said Evolve spokeswoman Kathy Ostler.
Cisco Canada launched comprehensive family planning benefits in 2020, providing employees with up to $50,000 for fertility costs, including harvesting, freezing and storing eggs, sperm and embryos.
“We spend a lot of time listening to the needs of our employees and what they’re looking for, and it certainly comes from that,” Cisco Canada president Shannon Leininger said in an interview.
“When you look at attracting and retaining talent, it’s more than just salary that people are looking for,” he said. “People who are starting a family want to work with a company that shares their values and allows them some flexibility to plan their career around their family and not the other way around.”
“It’s about giving our employees choice and realizing that life experience has to be a priority.”
Meanwhile, Johnson, who completed her first ovulation in November, is planning a second cycle this spring.
“I do it twice, so it could have been $30,000 if I didn’t have coverage,” he said. “It’s a huge advantage to have an employer that actually cares and is willing to support me through this.”
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