How Women’s Health Is Adversely Affected In The Workplace

By Hasna Haider

It’s an unfortunate fact that the pandemic has affected women in the workplace far more than it has men. Reports noted that women put in more unpaid hours in housework and childcare during lockdown, more women were furloughed than men, and that the gender pay gap had increased. So, it’s probably not surprising to find out that women also face higher levels of stress in the workplace, and are more likely to report illness at work. Read on for some of the top findings from a recent report on injuries and illnesses in the workplace:

Women are more likely to report being stressed

According to a Labour Force Survey in the UK, women are more likely to report being stressed, anxious or depressed than men. 17% of women aged 25-34 – versus 11% of men the same age – reported feeling this way due to work, or that work made these feelings worse. 

It was the same story for other age groups, such as 10% of women aged 55+ (versus 5% of men) reporting stress, anxiety and depression, 12% of women aged 35-44 (9% of men) and 12% of women aged 45-54 (9% of men). The only exception was in young women – with 7% of women aged 16-24 reporting these feelings compared to 8% of men.

Women are more likely to report illness

The survey also found that women are more likely than men to report illness caused or made worse by work. While the youngest demographic of women (i.e., 16–24-year-olds) are least likely to report illness, all other female age groups report illness more so than men. In fact, 56% of reports of illness came from women, with 9,050 women reporting workplace illness compared to just 7,220 of men. 

Women being out of work affects us all

Statistics also show that, in Britain, the number of workdays lost to illness or injury has increased 22% over the past decade. What’s more, while there’s been a 4% decrease in the number of men who lost workdays due to illness over the past decade, women have seen a 14% increase for the same time period.

As we know already, women being absent from the workforce could have ripple effects across all industries. Fewer women at work means fewer opportunities for the women who remain in the workplace, with lack of gender diversity only serving to give the impression that women don’t belong in certain positions in the working world. And, as workplaces become more male-dominated, women can begin to lack confidence in their right to be in that workplace, or lose the motivation to pursue progression in their careers.

Ensuring women in the workplace are supported properly

With all this being worrying news for women in the workplace, it’s important that employers do their bit to support their employees. It’s also worth acknowledging the gender differences that may be at play, and catering for those differences in a considered way. And, for workers returning to work after an illness or injury, employers need to check in with them so that they can fully support them in the transition. Some best-practice tips and actions to take to ensure women are supported in their return to work after illness or injury include:

  • Ensuring women are involved in decision making conversation regarding company policy, from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.
  • Adapting the workplace to better suit individual needs, from physical adaptations to employee working conditions such as working hours, workloads, breaks and days off.
  • Introducing new technologies (such as changing screen resolutions, protection from screen glare, ergonomic equipment and safety aids) to help keep employees healthy and well.
  • Fostering an inclusive culture where everyone is welcomed and accepted.
  • Talking to everyone (or asking individuals via a company-wide survey) about what they need from their employer.
  • Providing an open-door-policy for all employees to address their needs and worries with the decision-makers of the company.

Hasna Haidar is a senior copywriter and data researcher, covering topics in education, health, technology and women’s rights.

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