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Employee Wellbeing 2019

A spotlight on women’s wellbeing

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Debi O’Donovan

Director, Reward and Employee Benefits Association

Employers as varied as Royal Mail, Norton Rose Fulbright and Goldman Sachs lead the way on women’s wellbeing in the workplace with tangible enthusiasm.

While there are myriad reasons why organisations focus on traditionally taboo topics such as menopause, fertility and menstruation there are common business-led themes emerging.

Firstly, Office of National Statistics figures show the 2019 employment rate for women is the joint highest on record at 72%, with the increase partly down to fewer retiring due to the removal of the State Pension Age. Any employer grappling with future workforce planning will spot the need for more female-friendly working policies.

Secondly, employers with more than 250 staff reported Gender Pay Gap figures since April 2017. The results make uncomfortable reading and narratives explaining organisation-wide pay gaps are due to too few women in senior levels do not play well for long.

Demand for change to champion the female workforce

Couple these two legislative changes with ongoing pressure to increase the proportion of women in leadership roles, rising awareness of the benefits of neurodiversity within workplaces and a demand from supply chains and shareholders to see greater diversity and inclusion in workforces, and we start to see leading employers behaving differently to attract, retain and develop female talent of all ages.

Any employer grappling with future workforce planning will spot the need for more female-friendly working policies.

Which brings us to the changing way in which women’s wellbeing in the workplace is being addressed. To date menopause, period pain, endometriosis, hormonal treatments for fertility and maternity leave have often been seen as ‘problems’ women need to quietly handle without fuss. But increasingly people, of different genders and ages, are questioning why these natural human conditions should cause women to miss out on job opportunities and pay increases due to inconvenient absences, not being their best every day or taking months or years off to raise children.

Making adaptations to extend the broader workforce

Which good employer truly wants highly-experienced employees ending their careers unexpectedly early or go part-time because there are days their memory, anxiety or body temperature is out of kilter due to the menopause? Or talented younger women to fall behind on career paths when adjustments could be made to traditional working patterns to accommodate the challenging cycles some face?

Interestingly, the more employers discuss women’s wellbeing the more they realise making adaptations could extend to the broader workforce for a myriad of natural human situations. Conversations about fast-tracking mothers returning to work after raising children, quickly turn to doing the same for anyone taking significant time out of the workplace. Those changes in attitude benefit and humanise us all.

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