Howden urges businesses to normalise conversations around women’s health to break stigma
On International Women’s Day (March 8th), Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing (Howden) is calling on businesses to “normalise” conversations about women’s health issues and to involve men in the discussions.
Emma Capper, the UK Wellbeing Leader at Howden highlights that as more employers seek to differentiate themselves from their competitors by providing personalised benefits, including gender-specific healthcare benefits, it is vital to create an environment that encourages open communication and support for women’s health.
Research by Reba and Howden published last year found that 85% of employers will be focused on personalisation of benefits by 2024 and 88% offer or plan to offer menopause support.
Emma said: “Adopting a proactive approach tailored to the needs of female employees can lead to improved performance, talent attraction and retention, and reduced sickness absence rates. On International Women’s Day, we encourage employers to assess what they can do to better support their female workforce.
Leo Savage, Global Wellbeing Consultant, emphasises the significance of involving men in conversations about women’s health. He says, “Every female employee will experience periods and menopause, which can have a more significant impact on the workplace than people may realise, with a range of possible symptoms and associated health conditions.
However, men are unlikely to be aware of women’s monthly cycles or the symptoms they experience during menopause. They may not automatically know what can make life easier, such as providing sanitary products in toilets and sanitary bins in every cubicle or having cooler offices for women experiencing hot flushes.
To establish a workplace that values diversity, inclusivity, and empathy, involving men in conversations and making them aware of the challenges their female colleagues may face is essential. This promotes understanding and support among male colleagues, empowering women to speak out and ask for assistance when needed.”
In the UK, research by the UCL Social Research Institute[i] found that women who are going through the menopause between the ages of 50 and 55 take an average of two months off work because of their symptoms, while women who experience early menopause (before they reach 45) take four months off.
Leo emphasises that while the stigma surrounding women’s health conditions like menopause is slowly breaking down, employers should still be mindful that not everyone wants to share their personal health challenges. To ensure that women feel comfortable seeking help, employers should carefully consider their communications and create accessible opportunities for engagement. Leo also stresses the importance of understanding women’s health needs and tailoring wellbeing programmes accordingly for maximum effectiveness.
Emma adds: “We recommend businesses review their leave policies around specific areas such as fertility and menopause, and ensure it is part of the culture and people are aware of it. It’s no use having a policy hidden on the intranet, it needs to be front and centre so that women feel supported.
“We recommend that businesses consider offering wellbeing days as a tool to provide women with flexibility to take time off without disclosing personal details, enabling them to deal with their challenges privately. However, regardless of the support provided, normalising conversations and creating awareness and opportunities for open dialogue are crucial.”
Emma Capper and Leo Savage recently discussed women’s health issues in a podcast called, “Are you supporting women’s health in your business?” They covered some common health conditions specific to women and offered advice on how employers can improve support. To listen, click here.
Additionally, Howden offers a free guide titled “Supporting women’s health in the workplace: from periods to menopause and everything in between.” You can download the guide here.
For more information, please visit www.howdengroup.co.uk