Neglecting women’s health at work could cost UK economy £20.2bn a year – analysis

According to data, women represent over half of the population and 47% of the workforce (Alamy/PA)
According to data, women represent over half of the population and 47% of the workforce (Alamy/PA) According to data, women represent over half of the population and 47% of the workforce (Alamy/PA)

Neglecting women’s health in the workplace could be costing the UK economy around £20.2 billion each year, analysis has suggested.

In a new survey of 2,000 women, 68% said that they have dealt with health issues at some point in their career, whilst almost 29% felt their employers were not supportive.

When factoring in specific health matters that relate to women, including endometriosis, fertility, menopause and periods, this figure increases to 36%, leaving 46% of women worried that their health could impact their career trajectory and 48% thinking they would be forced to resign.

The study conducted by AXA Health in partnership with the Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR) also suggested that 83% of women have had their personal finances affected when faced with health issues. For instance, 52% of women have had to take time off, 22% missed out on a promotion and 20% settled for lower pay.

Economic modelling from AXA Health and CEBR suggested that ignoring women’s health at work could be costing the UK economy £20.2 billion a year.

From 90% of women struggling emotionally, 46% feeling helpless and 43% feeling less motivated at work, this issue has also had a huge impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

“As this report finds, neglecting the health of women in our workplaces isn’t just a matter of compassion; it’s a serious economic oversight,” said Flick Drummond MP, who is serving as the co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women and Work.

Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, deputy chief medical officer at AXA Health, added: “While companies certainly still have a way to go in addressing women’s health at work, there is promise in the increased willingness of women to discuss their health concerns with colleagues and managers..

“For example, our women’s health report found that 60% of women who talked about their health found their employers to be supportive, whether this be through time off, offering counselling or making adaptations to the workplace.

“These developments are positive, but as we delve further into the findings, it becomes evident that concerns extend beyond just health issues. A striking 53% of the women we surveyed voiced that, within their workplaces, women often shoulder more unplanned responsibilities – such as caring for loved ones – than their male counterparts.

“Furthermore, when reflecting on their own families, 39% of respondents revealed that they bear a greater burden than male family members when it came to unexpected caring responsibilities. This gender-based imbalance in unpaid labour not only perpetuates inequality but also places women at risk of being sidelined in their careers, overlooked for promotions, or compelled to work beneath their true potential.”

Bradshaw said the economic impact of neglecting women’s health is “still significant”, and urged the need for “more education, robust workplace policies and talent retention initiatives”.

The report suggested women who work part-time are hit even harder when it comes to health-related issues. It found that 61% are worried about having to leave their jobs prematurely, which exceeds the average by 19%.

Only 17% of women who work full-time believe that conversations surrounding women’s health are not encouraged in their workplaces, but this increases to 23% for those who are employed part-time.

According to a report conducted by The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, women represent 51% of the population and 47% of the workforce.