Painful periods, menopause and chronic pelvic pain are leading causes in the limitation of female career progression.
Women are missing out on promotions and pay rises due to menopause, say the Social Research Institute at University College London. Symptoms such as hot flushes, insomnia, anxiety, and heart palpitations contribute to the disruption of women’s careers.
The majority of woman – 56 percent – aged 25-34 would be concerned discussing endometriosis – a painful and common gynaecological condition – with their employer if they were taking time off due to painful periods and chronic pelvic pain, say the charity Endometriosis UK. They also found similar findings of a younger age range of 16–24-year-olds, where 60 percent would feel uncomfortable discussing their condition.
Endometriosis is “something that affects a lot of women, but which male managers may not have even heard of,” says Commercial Director of Active People HR, Adrian Lewis. “Employers must work harder to help break the stigma that exists around many women’s health conditions and raise awareness.”
Also commenting on the affect menopause has on women, co-founder of Vira Health, Dr. Rebecca Love, says that menopause “is a time point in a woman’s life where we can fundamentally change the trajectory of lifelong health’, arguing that it is “outrageous that we have not focused on menopause care more.”
What can HR technology do to help?
To raise awareness of an otherwise unknown condition to most male employers, Mr Lewis suggests the use of HR tech. For example, absence management software can help managers spot behaviour patterns such as someone taking sick leave for a few days each month. Someone suffering endometriosis may have to take time off during their period but could feel uncomfortable speaking to their manager about it beforehand.”
HR tech offers a safe space for conversations
Women may not feel confident speaking to their manager about an issue such as endometriosis. Absence management software would give women the chance to talk about why they have been off in a safe space, since “the system always prompts return to work interviews,” says Lewis.
This encouragement of conversation would allow a manager to be aware of any issues, allowing them to offer support and direct employees to services and policies that could help them cope better with their condition.
What does the future look like?
Some developments towards greater recognition of the importance of supporting women’s health are already evident. On International Women’s Day 2022, London Mayer Sadiq Khan announced ‘world leading’ menopause leave. Also, last February the UK Menopause Taskforce held its first meeting and aim to ensure coordination across the UK in terms of raising awareness of menopause and improving care and support.
Additionally, on World Menopause Day in 2019 Channel Four paved the way for the UK’s media industry, announcing their menopause policy aimed at supporting their employees experiencing menopausal symptoms. They hope to provide guidance for line managers and inspire the industry to follow a similar path.
However, there is still a long way to go. HR tech can, and should be, utilized by managers to ensure women’s health ‘issues’ are no longer issues; investing into HR tech has great potential to manage employee wellbeing.
Whilst the development of maternity leave legislation demonstrates advancements in women’s health policies, there remains a need for greater acknowledgement of the issues periods and menopause cause for women within the workplace.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.