Health equality | UK loses 150 million working days due to lack of workplace support for women's health

UK loses 150 million working days due to lack of workplace support for women's health

The UK is losing 150 million working days a year due to a lack of workplace support for women’s health, new research has revealed.

Published as part of a new campaign launched by affordable healthcare provider Benenden Health – in partnership with the Fawcett Society and Cherry Healey – the study shines a light on the gender health gap in the UK in a bid to break down the barriers that lead to poorer health outcomes for women in the workplace.

Benenden Health’s study revealed that women in the UK miss an average of nine days of work a year due to health issues, exacerbated by a lack of appropriate healthcare support for female workers.

It was also revealed that four in ten (42%) have heard derogatory comments about a female employee’s health in the workplace, often around them taking time off work, being difficult to work with or not able to do their job properly. Not surprisingly, this has left many women reluctant to discuss their health issues with managers, with almost half (42%) feeling uncomfortable doing so.

However, the percentage of women comfortable discussing health issues increases significantly – up to 96% - when the manager is also female. Benenden Health’s research also found that six in ten business owners believe that they could help to improve the productivity of female employees if women’s health was better supported.

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Identifying some of the key issues they face in the workplace, more than two thirds of women (70%) said they find it challenging dealing with periods at work, while 62% have faced challenges when pregnant. In this instance, almost half revealed that they have had difficulty when trying to conceal a pregnancy in the workplace and two thirds of women (64%) say they have struggled with the impact of the menopause at work.

This survey was carried out amongst 5,000 female employees and 1,000 business owners, as part of a wider campaign by the healthcare provider, highlighting the presence of the gender health gap within the UK and how it impacts women’s professional lives. Currently, the UK has the largest female health gap among G20 countries, and the 12th largest globally. Benenden Health’s research looks at how this manifests itself, in a campaign that seeks to understand, and remove, the barriers to a more equal workforce when it comes to health outcomes.

These findings highlight a crucial need to improve manager knowledge and sensitivity towards women’s health issues, allowing for more open, honest and potentially difficult conversations to take place in the workplace.

Rebecca Mian, Head of Human Resources at Benenden Health, said: “While we already knew that a gender health gap exists in the UK, it has been eye-opening to see how this presents in the workforce with women missing so many days at work due to health challenges. Often, women are facing these challenges due to a lack of understanding about their health, so it is vital that we can help to develop this understanding among employers.

“It is crucial that managers not only support their teams but understand that each individual will have their own specific needs and health concerns – and should be able to comfortably voice these experiences. Understanding and adequately addressing women’s health issues in the workplace is not just good for the employees, it is integral to building stronger, more collaborative, and successful businesses.”

Benenden Health has partnered with the UK’s leading charity for gender equality and women’s rights, The Fawcett Society, to further understand the experiences of women and health challenges in the workplace.

Jemima Olchawski, Chief Executive at the Fawcett Society, said: “At Fawcett, we believe in workplaces that work for women, at every stage of life, which is why it is so important for us to partner with Benenden Health on its new campaign. Research like this shows just how much work there is still to be done in even just beginning to understand how stark inequality is in the UK today, and in ways that can seem ‘invisible’.

“It’s time for change. The current system doesn’t work for anyone: women are being let down and the cost to business is enormous. We hope some of the clear solutions offers in this research will encourage employers and Government to step up to the challenge and build a system that works better for women, in order to begin closing the Gender Health Gap.”

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