December 5, 2019
From menstruation to menopause, the challenges that come with being a woman at work is causing reoccurring career breaks, which are costing UK businesses, according to a new report from Bupa. As many as 11 million women have had to take a long-term leave of absence at some point during their working life, from their late teens to their early seventies. From uncomfortable periods to the range of symptoms associated with the menopause, female health challenges are causing over three million women to leave employment, costing businesses invaluable talent. Periods, fertility struggles, pregnancy and menopause are some of the main female health events that cause women to take long-term leave.
Long term absence
The research, conducted by Bupa Health Clinics, claims that women who have taken long-term absence from work because of menopause, take an average of 32 weeks’, to accommodate their symptoms which can range from depression, anxiety, hot flushes and mood swings. During this stage of life, which can start in a woman’s early forties, almost a million women have left their job completely.
Meanwhile, over a million women have left a job because period related problems became unmanageable at work. That’s a significant loss of female talent taken because of the menopause and periods alone. In addition, there is fertility problems and the impact of pregnancy and motherhood to consider in between.
In the UK, 3.5 million people have difficulty conceiving. The stress of infertility can lead to mental health conditions, with one study finding that 90 percent of infertile women regularly experience feelings of depression, which can affect their performance at work.
The report released today found that the impact on businesses doesn’t stop once a woman falls pregnant. Women who have had to take long-term absence for pregnancy reasons have taken an average of 12 weeks – outside of their maternity allowance.
Bupa Health Clinics is calling for employers to offer more support to women throughout all stages of their lives, to avoid needlessly losing them. Three quarters of working women feel their employer could do more to support them with female health matters.
Over one in 10 working women said they had been treated unfairly by colleagues because they didn’t understand the discomfort they were experiencing
Alaana Linney, a Director at Bupa Health Clinics says: “From period pains and pregnancies to the menopause, women face a number of health events that balance against their working lives. Should these events become so difficult that women decide to leave the world of work completely, it results in a huge loss in female talent. Women make up 47 percent of the working population but we are underrepresented in percent terms at board level and the main contributor to this is breaks in our talent pipelines caused by pervasive health and childcare inequality.
“Sadly, in our research we found that over one in 10 working women said they had been treated unfairly by colleagues because they didn’t understand the discomfort they were experiencing and 12 percent said they had worked extra hours to accommodate a lack of productivity while suffering with some of these events.
“We want employers to recognise the impact of managing your health as a woman whilst working. Women don’t need special treatment but need businesses to act in a way that levels the playing field, changes perspectives and create cultures where everybody can thrive.”
Alaana Linney gives?her top three tips for women on how to manage female health events at work:
- Communication is key – speak out
No one can help you if they don’t know there is a problem! However, we know that opening up about female health at work can be difficult, particularly if your manager is male. If this is the case, consider approaching your HR team and go to someone you feel comfortable with. HR professionals are experienced with addressing difficult situations so seek advice where you can on how to open up the conversation.
The stigma attached to female health needs to be broken in the workplace and you can do that by talking about it. By speaking out about female health events in your life, you are also encouraging other women to do the same!
- Be informed
Educate yourself! Female health events can overlap or be significantly different to a friend or family member. It’s important to know that everyone is different so no female health experience will be the same.
Visit your GP to discuss any concerns or questions you may have. You could also have a female health assessment where you can explore the various symptoms you are going through and find a solution.
- Suggest ways to support others
Speak to your manager or your HR team about inviting external experts into the workplace to offer help and guidance. For example, inviting a menopause specialist could help you, or even a male colleague whose partner, or relative may be experiencing the menopause. It doesn’t just have to be for women.