Women’s Health Strategy: the Workplace
In March 2021, the government launched a call for evidence to inform the development of a strategy around women’s health covering areas such as access to services, education and the workplace. The call to evidence elicited over 100,000 responses, the vast majority of which were from individuals in England keen to share their own experiences or the experiences of others. It was found that around half of respondents felt their current or previous employer had been supportive on health issues, while only 35% of respondents felt comfortable talking about health issues with their workplace.
Respondents to the survey identified the need for flexible working arrangements and more inclusive and understanding working environments to foster open discussions about women’s health. Respondents also highlighted the importance of workplace policies on specific situations such as menstruation, the menopause, fertility treatment and pregnancy loss along with training for line managers to enable women to feel more able to speak up and be more adequately supported.
As a result of the call to evidence, the government has recently published the first ever Women’s Health Strategy for England which identifies a 10 year action plan to put women at the heart of health services and improve the health outcomes for women and girls. In a workplace context, the government has outlined a number of ambitions, including:
- Health conditions and disabilities no longer being a barrier to women’s participation or a positive experience in the workplace.
- Women feeling able to speak openly about their health and to be confident that they will be supported by their employer and workplace colleagues, with an end to taboos.
- Through information and awareness, employers and workplace colleagues feeling better equipped to support their female employees/colleagues
- Encouraging employers to implement national policy, best practice and evidence-based workplace support in relation to working practices such as creating a culture which supports flexible working and offering high-quality occupational health services to support those managing long-term conditions.
- Encouraging employers to introduce workplace policies for issues such as menopause.
- Employers and colleagues being better informed on the potential impact of caring responsibilities on participation in the workplace and other aspects of carers’ lives.
In order to achieve these objectives, the government has announced that it is taking a number of actions including the theme of the Health and Wellbeing Fund 2022 to 2025 being women’s reproductive wellbeing in the workplace. The purpose of the fund will be to support “voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations to expand and develop projects to support women experiencing reproductive health issues, such as pregnancy loss or menopause, to remain in or return to the workplace”. The government is also planning to launch a new call to evidence regarding the flexible working practices required to support employees, specifically women, to manage health conditions at work.
As well as the proposed actions that the government intend to introduce, the strategy emphasises the important role that employers will need to play if the implementation of the strategy is to be successful.
Practical steps that employers can take now to ensure that the women in their workplace feel supported despite any health issues they may be experiencing include:
- Reviewing flexible working practices to ensure these do not place unnecessary constraints on the balance between work and home life for employees;
- Drafting and implementing a menopause policy which is aimed at raising awareness of the difficulties faced by employees going through the menopause, encouraging open and supportive conversations between managers and staff and directing employees to resources where they can receive information, advice and assistance about the menopause;
- Drafting and implementing other policies affecting women such as policies dealing with IVF, fertility issues, stillbirths, miscarriages and surrogacy;
- Ensuring that you have comprehensive policies in place regarding family friendly leave and pay, including a parental bereavement leave policy; and
- Providing comprehensive training to line managers to ensure effective implementation of these policies.
If you would like any assistance in policy drafting and implementation or you would like advice about how to ensure your workplace inclusive and supportive of women’s health and wellbeing, please contact Anna Bithrey on or Taylor Walton’s Employment Department on 01582 731161.
Disclaimer: General Information Provided Only
Please note that the contents of this article are intended solely for general information purposes and should not be considered as legal advice. We cannot be held responsible for any loss resulting from actions or inactions taken based on this article.
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