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

A new poll from healthcare provider Benenden Health claims 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. The survey also suggest that four in ten (42 percent) 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. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has left many women reluctant to discuss their health issues with managers, with almost half (42 percent) feeling uncomfortable doing so.

However, the percentage of women comfortable discussing health issues increases significantly – up to 96 percent – when the manager is also female. The report also claims 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.

Identifying some of the key issues they face in the workplace, more than two thirds of women (70 percent) said they find it challenging dealing with periods at work, while 62 percent 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 percent) 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, according to the firm. The poll sets out to look 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.

The authors of the report says 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.

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.”