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Prioritise women’s health and wellbeing ahead of new legislation.

In the journey towards gender equality, disparities in workplaces persist despite progress marked by International Women’s Day since 1911. Howden underscores the pivotal role of employers in fostering inclusivity by prioritising women’s health and wellbeing

Since its inception in 1911, International Women’s Day has marked progress towards gender equality. However, disparities persist in workplaces and Howden highlights employers can play a key role in building inclusivity, by supporting women’s health and wellbeing.

Recent research shows there are key issues to address. The World Health Organization and McKinsey recently published a report which highlighted that despite living longer, women spend 25% more of their lives in poor health. It also found that addressing the women’s health gap could potentially boost the global economy by more than $1 trillion annually by 2040[i].

Historically, women’s health concerns, including periods, fertility, and menopause, have often been marginalised or addressed superficially in the wake of media attention.

However, with impending family-focused legislation like the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 and the Carer’s Leave Act 2023, alongside recent guidelines from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on menopause[ii], there is an opportunity for employers to take proactive measures to address women’s health, such as developing a comprehensive employee benefits and wellbeing strategy that caters to the diverse needs of women of all ages.

Emma Capper, UK Wellbeing Leader at Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing says, “Building a supportive and inclusive culture with access to essential healthcare can empower women to lead healthier, happier lives and make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.  This can improve their motivation and performance, help companies attract talent, and reduce rates of absence.”

“However, companies need to steer clear from ‘tick box exercises’ such as introducing menopause support simply because it is topical. Instead, we encourage them to actively listen to their female employees, gather their feedback so they understand their concerns and needs and not presume to understand the challenges they face. Then they can implement the most appropriate female-friendly benefits on issues including periods to menopause, through to female cancers and mental health support.”

She adds: “The new legislations are designed to be more inclusive for women, offering increased protection from redundancy for pregnant women; and giving a new entitlement of one week of unpaid leave annually for employees who care for dependants with long term needs, which is a burden that often falls to women. The EHRC guidelines also clarified the legal obligations to workers going through menopause and that employers could face being sued under the Equality Act 2010 if they don’t make reasonable adjustments for women with menopause symptoms.

“Taking a tailored approach to benefits, based on the needs of female employees is vital and an important step in ensuring that women’s health and wellbeing issues are prioritised particularly as forthcoming legislation will see workplaces become more equitable.’’

Emma recommends four steps businesses can take to promote female health and wellbeing:

  • Raise awareness about the importance of regular health check-ups, and preventive measures for women of all ages.
  • Create a culture of wellbeing. Provide resources and information on maintaining physical, mental, and emotional health. Use a wellbeing calendar to tie activity in with national awareness days.
  • Review HR policies and employee benefits to identify gaps in gender specific healthcare provisions. Consider benefits specifically designed to support the needs of women in the workplace, such as menopause support.
  • Communication is key. Signpost the employee benefits and wellbeing services available to employees, so thatellbeing leader, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing they know what support is in place and how to access it.

www.howdengroup.co.uk

[i] https://www.weforum.org/publications/closing-the-women-s-health-gap-a-1-trillion-opportunity-to-improve-lives-and-economies/

[ii] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-68366519

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