Careers hampered for 40% of women due to lack of health support

New data has revealed that 40% of women in the UK believe that their professional career has been negatively impacted due to a lack of support and understanding around women’s health issues in the workplace.

New data has revealed that 40% of women in the UK believe that their professional career has been negatively impacted due to a lack of support and understanding around women’s health issues in the workplace.

The research comes from healthcare provider Benenden Health as part of a wider campaign it is carrying out with the Fawcett Society to shine a light on the gender health gap in the UK and to break down barriers for women in the workplace.

When asked how their health challenges had negatively impacted their career opportunities, respondents said this included missing important meetings, experiencing negative comments about their work, and being overlooked for promotions and pay rises. 

The research also explored the support women would like to see from their employers, with 41% of female workers calling for pregnancy loss leave to be introduced, as well as a third (31%) looking for other policies around pregnancy loss support. At present, research shows this is something that is only offered by 12% of businesses in the UK. 

A third of women (31%) also called for improved maternity policies – not just statutory leave – and another third (31%) said that offering free sanitary products was a key benefit that employers can introduce to show support for female workers. 

The 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. 

Current data suggests that 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.  

Despite calls from female employees, businesses overall are still not offering the support that women are asking for in the workplace. According to the research, only 12% of businesses in the UK have a culture where women’s health issues can be talked about. 

When asked about managing female employees, half of business owners said they believe that women’s health issues make them harder to manage than their male colleagues. 

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 workplace and the lack of support that women are receiving from employers. 

“Our research shows that business owners want more education around how to properly support female employees, and we agree it is vital that managers gain a better understanding around specific needs and health concerns that women may face. By opening the conversation between female employees and line managers, things such as temporary reasonable adjustments in the workplace can be put in place to ensure women can perform at their best.

“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 and will help businesses to retain the talented women in their workforce into the future.”

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.”

To find out more about the research and the campaign, click here.

To read Empower Up’s guides to mental health & wellbeing in the workplace, click here.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash

Register or log in to get started in your organisation

Get our EDI news and guides straight to your inbox

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Login or Sign Up

You'll need an Empower Up members account to access this awesome content.

Our members get free access to:

Don't have an account? Sign up