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Supporting women at work - seeing the person behind the employee

Where does the cross-over happen between who we are as an employee and who we are as a person? In fact, are we not both one and the same whether we are at work or at home?

Recognising an employee as an individual

There is now an increasing recognition that the person we bring to work is complex and may have a range of physical, psychological and/or social issues that can impact performance. If the pandemic taught us anything it is that we all have a personal side to our lives (partners, children, elderly parents, pets etc) and any number of challenges we may be struggling with. Employers were required to reach out and support staff in a new way that recognised the personal side of the employee. There is now more than ever a recognition of the importance of ensuring the optimum health and well-being of employees. This is not just because of the benefit to the employer of a healthy labour force but also because of a moral duty on the part of the employer to adopt a holistic approach to the employee.

How can employers support women in work?

So which aspects of our personal lives, health, and well-being, should employers be aware of and pro-actively support? What does this look like for women? It has been recognised that women’s personal lives often involve significant events that impact their health and well-being either temporarily or permanently. For women this may include pregnancy; miscarriage; and the menopause. Changing attitudes towards employer responsibilities both at organisational and national level are now emerging.

Miscarriage, which whilst impacting both men and women, is a unique experience in terms of the physical and mental health impacts for women. These effects can persist over time and influence working performance. The emotional impact may persist, particularly if insufficient time is available for the grieving process. We are now seeing legislation being introduced in some countries to support parents at this time in their lives. Legislation was introduced in March 2021 by the New Zealand Parliament that provides couples who experience miscarriage or stillbirth with paid leave, perhaps the first to do so. Many countries previously allowed for paid leave at particular points of gestation during pregnancy, but new legislation permits parents in New Zealand to take paid leave for the loss of a pregnancy at any point in time.

Currently in the UK a woman cannot take time off and qualify for maternity leave, or be paid, if time is taken for a miscarriage. Time off has to be taken in agreement with an employer either as compassionate leave; as annual (holiday) leave; as sick pay (if certified by her GP) or agree a period of time unpaid. The introduction of a recognised period of paid leave for miscarriage would enable parents to grieve without financial worries. Ginny Andersen, the NZ MP who introduced the NZ legislation, recognised that dedicated paid leave for miscarriage would “give women the confidence to be able to request that leave if it was required, as opposed to just being stoic and getting on with life, when they knew that they needed time, physically or psychologically, to get over the grief”. 

Menopause comes in a woman’s life at a time when they may have moved into a more senior role at work and may at the same time be juggling both work and domestic responsibilities such as the care of elderly parents and/or dealing with a growing family. The menopause brings with it a number of physical effects including hot flushes, poor sleep patterns, and cognitive impairment such as poor memory or concentration. It has been estimated that 10% of women leave their jobs and 25% consider leaving their jobs due to the effects of the menopause. This is a significant loss of talent within the workforce.

Menopause is increasingly receiving attention by employers with many now introducing specific menopause policies. These policies alert managers to the symptoms and impacts of the menopause and how they may influence a woman’s performance. They include supports that can be put in place in terms of reasonable adjustments. Organisations such as Talking Menopause are available for employers to consult and work with to get advice on how they can best support women through the menopause and retain their talent.

Keeping women in work through support

As the demographics of the UK swing heavily now towards an aging population with more people over 65 than under 15, it is ever more important to ensure that the workplace is supportive of women’s health and well-being so that they can move through the natural phases of their life yet remain an active contribution to the workplace.

1 commentaire

Joanne Bayliss
Joanne Bayliss
11 juil. 2022

So very true!


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