Neglecting female health in the workplace is costing the UK economy £20.2bn every year, a report has suggested.
The Axa Health research found that almost seven out of 10 (68%) of women have experienced health issues at some point in their career and almost a third (29%) reported that employer weren’t supportive.
This figure jumps to 36% when it comes to women-specific health matters such as endometriosis, fertility, menopause and periods. The fear of hindering career growth (46%) and being forced to leave the workforce prematurely (48%) are among the top concerns for women.
The research conducted with the Centre of Economic and Business discovered that this is having a financial impact on women in the workforce, with 83% of women having had theirs affected in some way. For example, it found that more than half (52%) had to take time off work, nearly a quarter missed a promotion (22%), and one in five settled for lower pay (20%). All of which has a detrimental impact on the overall economy when scaled.
There is also a wellbeing impact well as an economic one, with nine in 10 women report having struggled emotionally during this time.
The report found these issues can be particularly acute for part-time workers. For example 61% are anxious about having to prematurely exit the workplace, exceeding the average by 19%. Additionally, 52% fear that their career progression will be hindered, rising to 64 per cent among those who work less than eight hours a week.
On a broader scale, only 17% of women who work full time feel that discussions about women’s health are not supported in their workplaces, but this increases to almost a quarter (23%) among those employed part-time.
When it comes to support for women-specific health needs in the workplace, many women said that have seen improvements over time, yet over a third still believe women’s health isn’t a priority.
Those who have seen the most strides forward were often over 55. This age group also leads the charge in terms of comfort levels when it comes to discussing women-specific health matters at work. Axa Health says this confidence could stem from being in the later stages of their careers, reducing anxiety about long-term impacts.
In stark contrast, women aged 25-to-34 lag behind and are 25% more uncomfortable on average to speak out.
Axa Health deputy chief medical officer Dr Pallavi Bradshaw saID: “While companies certainly still have a way to go in addressing women’s health at work, there is promise in the increased willingness of women to discuss their health concerns with colleagues and managers.
“For example, our women’s health report found that 60% of women who talked about their health found their employers to be supportive, whether this be through time off, offering counselling or making adaptations to the workplace.
“These developments are positive, but as we delve further into the findings, it becomes evident that concerns extend beyond just health issues. A striking 53% of the women we surveyed voiced that, within their workplaces, women often shoulder more unplanned responsibilities – such as caring for loved ones – than their male counterparts.
“Furthermore, when reflecting on their own families, 39% of respondents revealed that they bear a greater burden than male family members when it came to unexpected caring responsibilities. This gender-based imbalance in unpaid labour not only perpetuates inequality but also places women at risk of being sidelined in their careers, overlooked for promotions, or compelled to work beneath their true potential.
“Forward strides may be being made, but the economic impact of neglecting women’s health is still significant, emphasising the need for more education, robust workplace policies, and talent retention initiatives.”
Flick Drummond MP, serving as the co-chair of the APPG on Women & Work, is actively championing Axa’s efforts to drive change within both corporate entities and society at large.
She added: “As this report finds, neglecting the health of women in our workplaces isn’t just a matter of compassion; it’s a serious economic oversight. The Government’s Women’s Health Strategy is visionary, and we need to work together to effectively fund and safeguard the ten-year plan into the future. As we approach the Autumn statement, I am committed to working with my government colleagues to ensure this is the case.”
The research revealed several ways in which businesses can start to better support their female employees, including offerinf flexible working arragements, support for specific conditions, mental health support, access to information, health and wellbeing support, wellness training, and physical workplace adjustments.