The fear of getting women's health in the workplace wrong

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Last year, we surveyed businesses across Lancashire to see why they were reluctant to address women's health in the workplace.  

The results:

  • The stigma that still surrounds talking about periods and menopause
  • A lack of understanding about the symptoms of women's health issues
  • Ignorance around the impact that the symptoms have, not only on women but also on the business and the bottom line!
  • Fear of getting it wrong

In this article, we look at the first "why"...

The Fear of Getting it Wrong

This reason was, perhaps, the most surprising to me and it wasn't until I delved a little deeper behind the answers that I really started to understand it.

This fear actually stems from all the other reasons: It's a fear of getting it wrong but also a sense of not knowing where to start and who to turn to.

"I know we need to look at this and menopause is something we've mentioned a few times before, but we don't have the experience in-house to deliver it and I wouldn't know who else to ask."  (spoiler alert - ask me!)

This answer was typical of the detail that sat behind this "fear of getting it wrong".   Although we are talking about women's health more and more, there is still a lack of credible information and reliable support out there.  And when budgets are stretched, it's important that you trust that the information you're supplying to your teams is accurate and effective.  

So there's that element.  

There was also the fear of offending and, sadly, a genuine fear that getting it wrong could lead to accusations of sexism and, at worst, even tribunal action.

"Women's health" is a recognised term for health conditions that impact people with wombs.  It is currently recognised by our health service as well as our central and local governmental institutions, so by using it you're 'safe' in the knowledge that it has been deemed a socially acceptable term.  

There is, of course, an underlying issue of transgender support and it is worth including this as an element of your 'Women's Health' programme, however as a bit of generalist advice, I'd say to make your policies, procedures and provisions available across the board; period producst available in both male and female toilets, literature and support available to all and a specific mention (or individual policy) to demonstrate your commitment to transgender staff members.  

As always, it boils down to good communication, respect and a good and honest intention.   If you follow these, and commission robust support behind you, then you won't get it wrong.

And don't forget - we're starting to see more and more tribunal cases citing lack of support for menopause and menstrual issues so I'd argue that you've got more to fear from not doing anything.

Sarah's Top Tips if you're worrying about getting it wrong:

  • Engage external support from a recognised and trusted expert if you don't have the knowledge and skills to run training, raise awarness or offer support in-house
  • Match it up with looking at inclusion of transgender issues in your HR policies and even plan in a full EI&D strategy to your work plan
  • A small start (like providing free period products in all of your toilets) is better than no start

Enjoyed this? Read more from Halcyon Women's Health

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