Great perk or dismal sign of the times? Apple, Facebook will pay female employees to freeze their eggs

From January, Apple will pay both full- and part-time employees up to US$20,000 for procedure and storage costs for female employees to freeze their eggs. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
From January, Apple will pay both full- and part-time employees up to US$20,000 for procedure and storage costs for female employees to freeze their eggs. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO - Apple and Facebook will pay women employees up to US$20,000 to freeze their eggs.

Depending on how one looks at it, the move is either an extraordinary perk that will help women by allowing them to focus on their careers without sacrificing the opportunity to have children later in life - or a dismal sign of the times.

For the Silicon Valley giants - who will be the first major employers to offer the procedure for non-medical reasons - it is the latest weapon in the raging war for talent.

From January, Apple will pay both full- and part-time employees up to US$20,000 for procedure and storage costs for female employees to freeze their eggs.

NBC News reported on Tuesday that Facebook recently began covering egg-freezing for non-medical reasons. A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed that the company rolled out the benefit in January in response to requests from employees, among other reasons.

Egg freezing is a pricey but increasingly popular option for women. While it enables women to delay child bearing, it started out as procedure used by women who have to undergo medical treatments that interfere with fertility such as with cancer.

In the United States, it typically costs up to US$10,000, with an additional US$500 for storage each year.

Preserving eggs has been described as a key to "levelling the playing field" in the male-dominated tech industry and a possible game-changer for women who have traditionally had to choose between their careers and starting a family at a time when their male counterparts are climbing the ladder.

Silicon Valley companies have been trying to outdo each other by offering an array of new family-planning perks. Apple said it also reimburses eligible expenses associated with the legal adoption of a child.

But the news has sparked debate on social media, Reuters reported, with some commentators saying companies should focus their efforts instead on creating a more balanced work-life culture, with more flexibility for new parents.

Apple said it recently introduced new benefits including extended parental leave. Facebook said it offers four months of paid leave for both new mothers and fathers.