Opinion  

Companies can do more to support women in the workplace

Debra Clark

Debra Clark

While more employers do now offer health and wellbeing support that is specific to women, this is often limited to a particular life stage, such as maternity.

But as women are in the workplace from teenagers through to at least their 60s, businesses should look to offer health and wellbeing support to women across the entire lifecycle, from early adulthood to menopause, and beyond.

It is not always an easy topic to raise and discuss in the workplace though – some women find it difficult to discuss with even their closest friends – but it is so important; it impacts a significant share of the workforce and we need to encourage open lines of communication on the matter.

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Support for women

There are many different avenues of support available for women in the workplace, from specialist support and guidance through to screening to identify physical health issues.

It is also now possible to train members of staff to provide support for their colleagues. Companies can train employees as female health champions, employee liaison officers, and mental health first aiders.

Once trained, such employees can be armed with information on the best ways to obtain help, they can signpost assistance and be someone to talk to and discuss concerns with.

Support can be providing access to good quality, reliable, trustworthy information on a topic or health concern. However, there are new products and services available now that can also help the individual to take action and access specific help or support when needed.

Physical health

There are various phases of life in which women in the workplace may require guidance.

Young women may benefit from specific advice on nutrition and exercise. They need to know about menstruation and what is ‘normal’. They will also be experiencing their first smear test and need to understand why this is so important to their wellbeing. 

There are almost certainly women of child-bearing agein the majority of companies, and they may require help on a number of levels. This starts with fertility and advice on getting pregnant. So many women have to go through tests and procedures around this time, investigating potential infertility. This has a massive impact on their wellbeing, both mentally and physically. They may require time off at short notice due to the timing of scans being required around their cycle. It then moves to pregnancy and birth – with maternity often focusing on the financial support a business can give in conjunction to time off work. Then those early days of parenthood and beyond. Returning to work after leave can be a real challenge and is often not considered. How flexible can you be as an employer?

Menopause and perimenopause have recently become a much more talked-about subject, and specific guidance can help women to cope with any symptoms that might impact their work. It could also help them to recognise that their symptoms may be associated with menopause and mean a quicker diagnosis. It is surprising how many GPs are not trained on the menopause and may fail to recognise the signs. Getting the right support as quickly as possible can stop things escalating. I have known women who think they have early-onset dementia because of the brain fog that can be a symptom of perimenopause.