Supporting Women in the Workplace

Why investing in women’s wellbeing is a smart business decision

There are more women in work than ever, a trend that has accelerated since home working and hybrid roles became more common. However, many businesses are struggling to deal with changing responsibilities, and women deserve better. There is a huge role for employers in addressing this and making support for women a priority in their organisation.

For instance - how is your business supporting staff with period pain and menopause symptoms? What practical guidance do you have to help employees with pregnancy and maternity at work? How do you help women in your workforce with their mental wellbeing?

Conversations about women’s health need to become normalised so they can participate fully in the workplace, and employers who can break down old taboos and offer effective support will have the edge when it comes to attracting and retaining talent


This isn’t simply a question of ethics or legislative compliance - investing in the wellbeing of your female employees could be the best decision your organisation ever makes.

Angela Evans, UKIM's Head of Occupational Health Operations, says; "During my time working in Occupational Health I have seen an improvement in the acknowledgement from employers of female specific issues, but there is still a way to go. Getting involvement from Occupational Health can help employers to fully support their female workforce."

How do we help employers support and empower women?

Our Occupational Health teams have the experience and expertise to work with your HR team, line managers and employees. We help educate and advise on the facts about women’s health that can affect their working lives, keep you updated with the latest clinical thinking, and help you implement or refine your own policy templates.

In addition to our broader range of Occupational Health service provision, our dedicated clinical experts can help you adopt best practices and build a culture of inclusion. This includes supporting women’s mental health in sport, giving best-practice guidance on managing pregnancy and maternity at work, and creating a menstrual-friendly workplace.

We’re committed to being a champion for women in the workplace - here are some more detailed examples of how we can help your business do the same.

How can you make your business a period-friendly environment?

Period pain can have a massive impact on both the wellbeing and prospects of your employees. 1 in 10 women have menstrual pain so intense that it interferes with their day-to-day life, and as many as 1 in 7 take regular time off work as a result. Menstrual pain also counts as a major cause of presenteeism (coming to work even though you are unwell) amongst staff. With the Department of Health making women’s health a priority for 2024, it’s time for businesses to take some basic steps so that women can work to the best of their ability - these include;helping-staff-manage-period-pain

  • Flexible home working arrangements
  • Providing period products onsite
  • Adapt uniforms for comfort and avoidance of embarrassment
  • Allow staff to request extra uniforms
  • Provide a quiet space for timeouts

Likewise, it’s imperative that management are educated about menstrual health and are able to address the subject with clear language. Only businesses that understand the scope of different experiences and challenges that menstruation can cause will be in a position to support staff.

How employers can support staff through the menopause

Menopausal women represent the fastest-growing workplace demographic. It’s estimated that by 2030, menopause-related productivity losses could cost more than £110 billion a year. Invariably, health issues associated with the menopause and how it affects productivity are not recognised or discussed in the workplace, and many are left struggling to cope with the psychological and physiological changes they are experiencing.

supporting-staff-through-the-menopauseIt’s important for managers to understand and acknowledge that this is a normal stage of life, and changes to working practices can be easily made - some of which can be;

  • Flexible working patterns or home working
  • Additional preparation time for meetings or appointments
  • Adjustments to uniform policies to accommodate hot flushes
  • Availability of counselling services
  • Accommodating a ‘cool space’ in the office, or providing desk fans/air conditioning

Women experiencing symptoms of the menopause are likely to be amongst your most highly experienced staff, and in a position to act as role models or mentors to younger workers. The simple fact is that half of the population will experience the menopause, yet many employers remain ignorant of the symptoms.

Our expertise gives you insight into the type of things to look out for, and a training programme from our 'Menopause in the Workplace’ team can help your organisation be as supportive as possible.

Learn more about our dedicated Menopause In The Workplace services here

How does your business support women through pregnancy and maternity leave?

As an employer. it’s imperative that you understand the legal and ethical framework that relates to pregnancy and maternity rights in the workplace. You must be legally compliant when supporting pregnant employees and those taking maternity leave, and there are protections in place regarding unfair dismissal, redundancy or discrimination.

understanding-employee-rights-during-pregnancyEmployers also have to ensure a safe working environment and must recognise employees' rights when it comes to balancing work and care, both during and after pregnancy.

  • Conduct risk assessments and make necessary adjustments
  • Understand the rights and protection pregnant staff have
  • Is there scope to support childcare or nursery requirements
  • Help other staff understand the physical and emotional effects of pregnancy

It’s not just about legal compliance - as a business, your conduct helps create a workplace where every team member can feel supported and valued. Educate your workforce about maternity rights, engage in open conversations, and ensure your policies promote equality and a positive work culture.

Supporting pregnant employees throughout their journey benefits everyone and will lead to a harmonious and productive business that demonstrates how much you understand the value of wellbeing and diversity.

How to ensure good mental health for women in the workplace

When it comes to the world of work, women are faced with numerous challenges. Pay gaps, balancing work with parenting, facing gender bias, poor understanding of women’s health… these are all obstacles to a fulfilling career. These challenges can lead to mental wellbeing problems, all of which can be further exacerbated by circumstance and / or the hormonal changes that accompany menstruation or the menopause.

It’s well known that men are more likely to commit suicide due to poor mental health - but did you know that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety? Or three times as likely to experience common mental health problems?

womens-mental-health-in-the-workplaceThese are all risk factors that employers need to be aware of, and steps you can take to address this include;

  • Cultural diversity training
  • Addressing pay and representation gaps between men and women
  • Provide access to discreet digital mental health tools
  • Address taboo subjects regarding women’s health

Explicitly discussing mental health and wellbeing is the only way to ensure it is included into your workplace policies.

Overcoming the embarrassment or lack of trust staff may feel when discussing difficult subjects has the potential to drive real long-term change in your business, fostering genuine inclusivity and reducing stigma.

Learn more about our dedicated mental health support services here.

Become a company that’s leading the way in supporting women’s health

In closing, let’s reiterate the business case for promoting women’s health in the workplace. If your organisation is perceived as ignoring these issues, it not only affects your workforce, but sends out an awful message about how your business values staff.

As well as improving employee retention and loyalty, ensuring your workforce is healthy means staff are more likely to be productive. Addressing health issues leads to lower absenteeism, improved performance, and better focus when at work. Companies choosing to step up their efforts in prioritising women’s health will tap into the fastest-growing talent pool and give you a real competitive edge when it comes to recruitment.

You’re also tapping into wider objectives - the 2010 UK Equality Act includes specific gender pay gap reporting requirements, and businesses are being held to account more than ever before to ensure fairness and equality.

If you’d like to understand how our Occupational Health services can provide you with the strategies you need to support women’s health in the workplace, contact us today by calling 0191 512 8220.