Businesses must support women’s health issues

Most women want to work in inclusive companies with clear policies

Workplaces can be very hard on women, especially when there are no clear and inclusive policies to support them. Nine out of ten women think there should be workplace policies to support them with women’s health issues.

That’s according to a new study by BetterUp, a human transformation company innovating the future of work by helping people and businesses grow personally and professionally. 

The report also reveals that three in five women (59%) have taken time off work for female health reasons such as menopause, fertility problems, menstruation and pregnancy (excluding maternity leave).

Of the 59% who took time off for women’s health issues, over a quarter (26%) cited menstruation as the problem, 14% said it was because of menopause, and almost one in five (19%) took extra time off because of pregnancy.

Create safe place

In terms of transparency with their employer, more than half (54%) of those who took time off said that they had openly explained to their employer why they needed time off and that they had been understanding.

However, a quarter said they did not feel comfortable telling their employer why they needed to take time off, highlighting the need for companies to create safe environments where everyone can be open and honest about what is happening in their lives. With nearly 10 million women working in the UK, it is clear that more needs to be done.

Ironically, this research comes as the UK Government recently decided not to introduce menopause as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010. Since this announcement, many organisations and activists have been campaigning to reduce discrimination against women and keep them in the workplace. 

In reality, despite companies’ good intentions, more than half of respondents (51%) said that their company does not have policies to support menopausal women. Of those who say their company has some support, 23% say it is inadequate.

Only 5% of women say their workplace has accommodated and provided support such as a fan or a more airy workspace.

Retain talent

Overall, 86% of respondents said they would be more likely to work in a company if it provided support for women’s health issues. This action demonstrates the business case for implementing women’s support programmes, particularly in light of the high resignation and companies struggling to retain talent. 

Of those who said they would prefer to work for a company that offered support for women’s health issues, more than a third (37%) said it would make them think the company had a great culture.

Dr Erin Eatough, Head of Behavioural Science at BetterUp, said: ‘There is clearly a business case for providing more programmes that address the needs of women in the workplace. Supporting our employees in their health journey is not only the right thing to do from a human perspective, but also clearly something organisations can do to attract and retain critical talent.”  

She added: “By investing in programmes to support women, organisations are better placed to prevent the departure of experienced and senior women, and better able to attract and retain younger talent.

“Many women feel that women’s health issues can be ignored or not taken seriously by employers. Creating an environment where women feel safe to talk openly about what affects them will therefore be essential for employers in the future.”

In this article, you learned that: 

  • More than a quarter of women have had to take time off work because of menstrual problems.
  • 25% of women do not feel comfortable explaining to their employer why they had to take time off work.
  • 8 out of 10 women (86%) would be more likely to work in a company if it had support for women’s health issues

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