Egg-citing: Fertility-related benefits to be offered to Clifford Chance and Cooley employees

September 27, 2021

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2 min read

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What's going on here?

Law firms Clifford Chance and Cooley will offer UK-based staff fertility benefits including egg freezing and IVF (in vitro fertilisation) in a move that mirrors policies already common in the US.

What does this mean?

Whilst many law firms in the UK already offer a broad range of perks to employees (such as gym memberships, health insurance and dinner allowances) more recently, firms such as Clifford Chance and Cooley have extended such perks to include fertility-related benefits. Soon, Magic Circle firm Clifford Chance will expand its health insurance policies by ÂŁ15,000 to include fertility-related investigations and treatment and US-firm Cooley will offer up to ÂŁ45,000 in reimbursements for fertility benefits including egg freezing, IVF and adoption.

What's the big picture effect?

It appears that law firms in the UK are catching on to a trend in the expansion of employee benefits in the way that US law firms and other large companies have carried out for some time. For instance, LinkedIn and Goldman Sachs offered their employees similar benefits back in 2019, with NatWest and PwC following suit. 

These changes firstly highlight a shift in how employers view perks. Alongside other mental health and wellbeing benefits extended by firms during the COVID-19 pandemic, Clifford Chance and Cooley’s moves seem to point to employers taking more care in matters related to their employees’ private lives. The decisions demonstrate an appreciation for the intrusiveness that procedures such as IVF can have on an individual’s health and daily life, with IVF often requiring daily injections and regular visits to fertility clinics, causing some women serious health problems. 

What’s more, IVF is an expensive and time consuming procedure (it can take up to 6 weeks) which can set an individual back thousands of pounds, with many having to try multiple cycles over time. This recognition marks a positive step away from the limited legal protection afforded to women who are pregnant against discrimination – currently, there is only legal protection for those who are pregnant, not those who are conceiving. Furthermore, wider recognition of fertility-related support by employers shifts the focus of fertility being solely a “woman’s” issue. 

Nevertheless, whilst some celebrate the potential stigmas these policies can break, others highlight that policies such as financial support for egg-freezing encourage employees to delay the period when time might be taken off for starting a family. Such critics suggest that these policies point to employers wanting their employees to prioritise their careers over their personal life. On the other hand, the expansion of financial support for fertility-related benefits might support a general upward trend in individuals choosing to start a family at a later age.

For the time being, it remains to be seen whether other law firms will follow suit and implement similar changes, and whether fertility-related perks will become a sought after benefit for job-hunters.

Report written by Edie Essex Barrett

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