NatWest and British Gas are offering their staff cut-price fertility treatment, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The state-backed bank is offering its 59,000 staff access to IVF, sperm freezing, treatment with donor eggs and support for same-sex couples who want to start a family.
Discounts for staff who work at the bank, which is 59.8 per cent owned by the UK taxpayer, range from five to 20 per cent depending on the treatment. Employees receive ten per cent off IVF treatment, for example.
Big businesses in Britain such as NatWest are subsidising the cost of fertility treatment such as IVF for staff
Centrica, owner of British Gas has also began offering fertility support as a workplace benefit
Centrica, owner of British Gas, has also begun offering its 18,500 staff in the UK and Ireland fertility support as a workplace benefit, including discounted IVF and menopause consultations.
The new trend for firms to offer fertility support to staff is partially a response to rising demand for better workplace perks. Figures show one in six couples face difficulties when trying to start a family and IVF typically costs thousands of pounds. Experts say offering staff fertility support also frees up women to climb the career ladder without having to put family planning on hold.
However, critics have warned that firms could inadvertently be encouraging women to delay having children so long that they may find it more difficult to conceive.
NatWest is understood to have launched its fertility support deal after a group of staff asked the bank’s HR department for more support. Asma Ali, a senior NatWest banker who set up its Fertility and Loss Network, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Having gone through fertility issues and miscarriages, I know how this impacts people. It can be a very lonely time for individuals.’
Hortense Thorpe, who founded Centrica’s Fertility Group, said: ‘When I was diagnosed with infertility, it felt natural to talk about it. Nine out of ten people affected by such issues suffer depression, and I certainly felt it. I hope sharing my story helps others have a better chance at having a family.’
Offering fertility treatments as a workplace benefit has rapidly gained popularity in the US but is only now starting to gather momentum among British firms
The revelation that NatWest and Centrica are offering fertility benefits comes after top law firm Clifford Chance said last week that its private medical scheme in the UK would cover fertility treatments and infertility investigations of up to £15,000 per person.
Offering fertility treatments as a workplace benefit has rapidly gained popularity in the US but is only now starting to gather momentum among British firms.
However, some fertility experts have also warned that delaying having a child could lower the chances of success, as fertility treatments are not guaranteed to work.
Professor Susan Bewley, a consultant obstetrician, said: ‘You’re putting your eggs on ice, but your body is not on ice.
‘IVF is harder in your late 30s and 40s, so why plan to make it more difficult?
‘What’s also scary is the small print – what are they going to do if you change jobs? Always look a gift horse in the mouth.’