Several years ago, William Preston began feeling the pressure of time. He and his husband, who had been together since they were teenagers, were now in their 30s and beginning to think seriously about starting a family.
But they were shocked when they found out the costs of surrogacy and adoption. So, Preston was thrilled when his employer, the San Francisco-headquartered Internet of Things company Samsara, made a special announcement last November. Starting in 2019, it would be offering up to $15,000 (£12,300) per-employee-per-year to cover fertility expenses.
It was a no-brainer to sign up for the fertility benefit immediately, Preston says. If they’d been sitting on the fence before then, the new policy “pushed us over the fence”.
Preston, a sales executive who’d previously worked for small Bay Area start-ups, was initially drawn to Samsara partly because of its generous perks, from catered lunch to Uber and Lyft credits. But the value of the fertility benefit – which can also include egg and embryo freezing, adoption and semen analysis – dwarfed those.
Of course, the couple will still have to shell out large sums from their own earnings. The cost of commercial surrogacy, which is banned in many countries such as the UK and Germany, can reach six figures in the US (but less than half that in Ukraine and Kenya). This process involves paying a gestational carrier (surrogate) to carry a baby for the intended parents. The eggs could come from her, an intended mother or an egg donor. Sperm could come from an intended father or a sperm donor. An embryo fertilised through IVF could also be implanted in the gestational carrier. So a baby born through this process might be biologically related to one or more of the parents, but not necessarily.
As you might imagine, then, the process has a lot of steps. The Samsara policy, administered externally by the fertility benefits management company Carrot, went beyond financial support to include a wealth of information that Preston and his husband found useful.
After a long process of choosing an egg donor and verifying the clinic, the couple are expecting to receive their eggs later this month. They are hoping for a successful pregnancy by the end of 2019. An old friend of theirs has already offered to carry the baby (they’re finalising the arrangements including the compensation). Surrogacy appealed because “being part of the same DNA as the child was somewhat near the top of the list”, Preston explains, but they’re open to adoption as well.
The benefit is available to all Samsara employees regardless of length of service, and at the moment there’s no requirement to stay with the company for a certain length of time to retain it. But there’s a subtler effect. “If anything, it makes you feel like you want to do well and that you want to succeed in the role so that you can continue to take advantage of that,” Preston says. As the company benefit is available each year, he’s hoping to draw on it next year as well, when the couple expect their first child to be born.