Future of Work – are we there yet?

Egg freezing procedures as an incentive: a good thing or insidious?

Whist we may be on our way to planning Vivid 2023, topics discussed this year have certainly had an impact. It seems fitting to share our thoughts on a discussion that took place at a Future of Work/Vivid 2022 event at UTS. In the talk, egg freezing procedures offered as an incentive by companies was mentioned and met with two different reactions between two LMHR colleagues.

Is it a good thing that it’s being offered or “insidious”, as referenced by a speaker at the event?

Here are their thoughts:

Meilinda: “I think it’s a great idea. It’s communicating to their female employees that they’re a business that cares about both their professional and lifestyle choices. Egg freezing can be quite cost prohibitive, and this offers them the opportunity to focus on their career – get to a certain level of achievements before choosing to become a parent.

For the younger workers: should this trend continue and normalise, what a great way to change a generation’s point of view on how professional life does not have to be altered by the lifestyle choice to become a parent. Our generation and the ones before us did not have the luxury of planning ahead by choice, as company-sponsored, or even egg freezing procedure for that matter, was not even an option.

Those who chose to be a parent often had their return-to-work choices marred by the lack of affordable childcare. What if they had the finances where they did not have to think twice about paying for quality child education and exceptional care? They might have stayed longer in the workforce, not feeling anxious that they might miss the boat on becoming a (biological) parent. I don’t guarantee the parent guilt of being away from their children would evaporate. And yes, I understand egg freezing applies to women only, but that’s exactly the point”.

Christine: “For me, even if they did cater to both men and women it doesn’t matter – not every employee wants a child and that is a very personal topic. In my opinion, it is a missed opportunity, whatever the reason sinister or supportive it doesn’t cater for all employees. If anything, it has the potential to create a divide in the workplace. It reminds me of when I first started working in HR and the company was very proud of their recently implemented marriage and moving house leave so 2–3 days paid leave to cater for those life events. I asked the business leaders, ‘What if I don’t do either, what is offered to me?’ They struggled to answer that question. Now, that is a problem! Granted this was 15 years ago but I don’t doubt if you asked around now there would be countless examples”.

Meilinda: “Women have historically and still today, earn less than men. We are seen traditionally  as the primary carer of the family even if we were the breadwinner or contribute equally to the family economy. Had this egg freezing procedure been available, or offered by my employer during my time, I would have strongly felt that I had more options when it came to navigating my career and lifestyle choices.”

Christine: “My thoughts are, don’t complicate things, focus on the purpose of the benefit. What are you trying to achieve? Is it to celebrate personal milestones, show your employees you support their wellbeing, show you acknowledge the time and energy they devote to your business or recognise that your employees have a life and or interests beyond work? Keep the program generic, that has the flexibility to still achieve your purpose but be defined by the employee who is on the receiving end”.

Time will tell whether the egg freezing incentive offered by companies will become a trend in Australia. In a way, Covid played a role in expediting changes. Medical research in vaccinations were done at groundbreaking speed, home schooling brought a big learning curve in tech skills amongst young students and the way we conduct business has normalised remote working. When the world was in a standstill (a.k.a lockdowns), the discussions got louder. Online networking groups we joined become face-to-face conferences and we are making relevant noise when it comes to choices. The Future of Work has already begun.