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Companies offering to freeze eggs told 'biology not the problem'

The decision by Apple and Facebook to fund egg-freezing treatments for their female workers - thus allowing them to put off having children until a later date - has drawn criticism from some commentators.

They suggested that the technology giants - both predominantly staffed by men - would better serve women workers by improving flexibility arrangements, and by better accommodating their caring responsibilities, rather than offering 'gimmicks' that imply that 'women's biology isn't compatible with the way we structure work'.

Biology not the problem

The issue highlights the longstanding difficulties that many working women face when thinking about starting a family.

Despite efforts to make it easier to balance work and caring responsibilities - not least with the upcoming introduction of Shared Parental Leave for parents of children due to be born or adopted from 5 April 2015 - more than two-thirds of women are worried about the impact children will have on their career.

The research from the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) also found that almost half of women who didn't have children felt their current employer didn't offer them the flexibility they needed to start a family.

For those who did have children, nearly a quarter changed their career after becoming a parent, and almost two-thirds said they would consider retraining to get further flexibility in the workplace.

A fifth of new mothers said lack of support from their employer made it difficult to balance work and childcare, creating a barrier to staying in employment.

Kathryn Nawrockyi, director of Opportunity Now, said, 'We need to tackle the systemic problems that are failing women in their careers. We need to look at better agile working.'

Acas publications and services

Employers risk marginalising working parents if they fail to provide the support and flexible working arrangements that they need to balance career and family.

Acas has published the pdf icon Advisory booklet - Flexible working and work-life balance [347kb], which features information for employers on how best to manage flexible working arrangements, and pdf icon Shared Parental Leave summary process [68kb], with everything you need to know about the new regulations..

Acas experts can also visit your organisation and develop with you effective flexible working policies that will give your staff the support they need to balance career and caring responsibilities. See Parents and carers: how Acas can help.

Practical training is also available on Maternity, paternity and adoption and Flexible working, including the recent changes to the law.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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