Avia HR were proud to participate in a panel hosted by FEWE on International Women’s Day, to discuss the findings of their first-ever report ‘The Menstrual Revolution’, and to specifically discuss how organisations can and should support women in the workplace.
Is there a requirement for HR policies that directly cater for the needs of Women?
It is essential that employers have policies that raise awareness, educate, and support women and their health. Consideration needs to be given to factors that impact women both directly and /or disproportionately.
We need to talk about action as women are suffering at work, and apart from the moral obligation, it is simply not good for business
Relevant factors to consider are Menopause, Periods, Miscarriages, Fertility Treatment and Caring responsibilities. It can be uncomfortable for women to raise these topics/words in the workplace, and we need to change that culture.
We strongly advise organisations to introduce a standalone policy and training for managers on the menopause
While employers should act compassionately and support their staff, it is also important to recognise that the physical effects of menopause may amount to a disability, and when a health condition could constitute a disability there are additional employer obligations.
In addition to any standalone policy, women issues can also be considered and supported in all standard HR policies. For example:
- How any absence related to periods is managed and supported?
Unlike menopause, whether period pain could amount to a disability has not yet been tested in case law.
The definition of a disability is:
if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.
Even if period pain does not amount to a disability for all women, we would question why employers are not under the same obligation to make reasonable adjustments for women who are suffering, and we would argue that it is essential that all employers take period pain seriously and support and assist their employees.
Organisations need to consider how employees are supported if they AND their partner experience a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or molar pregnancy.
Organisations need to consider the support available to staff undergoing fertility treatment.
Caring /Family Friendly
Organisations need to consider how to support and be flexible with all employees who have caring responsibilities, which can disproportionately impact women. We don’t just mean caring for children but all caring responsibilities such as elderly parents.
In 2021 women were more than twice as likely to ‘quit a job due to caring responsibilities
Our economy and businesses simply cannot afford to lose their talent. Organisations should have practices to support through short-term or long-term flexible working practices
It is also important to promote a family-friendly workplace. This can start with ensuring that there is equality of offer with leave when staff have a baby or adopt e.g., ensuring that policies such as maternity leave (taken by women) and shared parental leave (which can be taken by either parent) are rewarded in the same way. Women want options that allow them to manage home and work life and not every woman wants to take the full 12 months’ leave; all parents want fair options
Are there any actions employers should take to improve the lives of women and what benefits would this bring?
Yes lots! And while they benefit women, we also wish to highlight that practices that support women often also have the benefit of supporting men, the organisation and wider society.
- Our first question to organisations is – what kind of employer do you want to be? as the policies and practices are a reflection of what you want to achieve
- Our best advice is to then review and where appropriate revise and create new policies and practices and engage with your staff on this exercise
- By engaging with your staff, you have given them what they actually need as opposed to what you think they need
Using menopause as an example, as symptoms can affect a colleague’s comfort and performance at work, employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment and to ensure that adjustments and additional support are available to those experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Such a policy could include guidance for managers about carrying out a confidential discussion and risk assessment to understand more about how menopausal symptoms are affecting colleagues at work and the adjustments that are needed. Risk assessments should be reviewed regularly and whenever appropriate. Reasonable adjustments will depend on colleagues’ specific circumstances (symptoms, job role etc.), but the types of changes that might help could be:
- access to cold water whilst at work
- easy access to toilet facilities
- consideration of flexible working requests (for example, considering a later start and finish time)
- making sure the temperature is comfortable, providing a fan or access to fresh air
- providing somewhere to store extra clothes or change clothes during the day
- time off to attend medical appointments
- awareness of the potential impact of menopause on performance; if an employee’s performance suddenly dips, consideration could be given as to whether the menopause may be a contributory factor
Train your managers – normalise the female experience.
Ensure that reward packages are equally valued by all staff; for example, do you they provide support with childcare, wellbeing, do you conduct or are obliged to conduct equal pay audits?
What are the Benefits for Organisations?
- Retain talent
- Improve employee engagement
- Reduce absence levels
- Become an employer of choice
- Improve diversity
Be a company that women turn around and say, ‘My work are amazing!’ this will also have the benefit of being great for your Brand
If you need help reviewing or introducing new policies, or with any of the following then please do not hesitate to contact us
- HR Consultancy Advice/HR Support Services (available across the UK) *
- HR Training
- HR Resources e.g., Letter Templates, Policies etc.
- HR Health Check Checklist
* While we support many companies in the southwest (Bristol, Bath, Cardiff, Somerset, Swindon, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire to name but a few), we also provide remote HR advice and support to companies across the UK. In response to increased levels of home/remote working we can offer ALL our services remotely.