Three-quarters of women experience health problems at work, but line managers aren’t trained to support them

The majority of women in the workplace have experienced health problems at work (74%) yet there is a lack of support available to help them, according to new data from workplace health plan provider, Simplyhealth, which is on a mission to improve access to women’s health services with its low-cost health plan, women’s health services and guidance.

In the new research, women reported generally higher rates of being affected by health issues than men in the workplace, with around four-in-ten (37%) reporting experiencing anxiety last year compared to just 26% of men. Women were also twice as likely to report having migraines (20%, compared to just 10% of men) and more women reported experiencing back pain (29% vs 25%) and muscle pain (18% vs 14%) than men.

A significant number of women are bringing their health issues to the attention of their managers (over half of line managers reported this [54%] yet over a third [34%] said they don’t think their manager takes their health problems in the workplace seriously).

The Equalities Act 2010 states that employers must make reasonable adjustments to ensure workers with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, are not substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs.

Yet the research suggests that line managers, often the first in line when health problems arise, don’t feel equipped to offer adequate support.

Currently almost half (46%) of managers say they haven’t had any training to support employees with their health issues. 

Four-in-ten managers (39%) say they don’t know how to signpost people they manage to any health benefits offered by the company and a third (33%) of managers said they don’t think it’s their responsibility to support with workplace health problems.

It’s clear that leadership and HR teams could be better equipping managers with the guidance they need to offer health support, in line with their responsibilities set out in the Equalities Act.

It is also within their best interests since there are currently a record 2.8million people off work on long-term sick, leading to an estimated £150 billion annual economic cost of lost output amongst working age people due to ill-health[1].  

To enable better support for women in the workplace, Simplyhealth has today released a guide for line managers to have Comfortable Conversations with their staff about some of the most common women’s health issues, from breast and ovarian cancer to fertility, menopause and menstruation and mental health.

The guide is informed by Simplyhealth’s in-house clinicians and its new Women’s Health Charity Alliance, which has been supported by a £100,000 donation from the healthcare provider and includes Bloody Good Period, Miscarriage Association, Ovarian Cancer Action and Domestic Abuse Volunteer Support Services (DAVSS).

The results of this research are disheartening but sadly not surprising. We know health issues such as menstrual pain and menopause can have a significant impact on people’s professional lives – with symptoms ranging from exhaustion and memory lapses to migraines. Simplyhealth’s Health Plan for businesses supports with common women’s health issues by providing access to services such as virtual GPs, counselling, specialised cognitive behavioural therapy and physiotherapy. Our in-house clinical team has also curated a set of supplements and menstrual and sexual health products alongside Unfabled, a women’s health platform, with discounts exclusively available to its members.

Dr Macarena Staudenmaier Keglevich M.D., Msc and Head of Clinical Product and Operations at Simplyhealth

We know that women’s issues in the workplace have historically been at best overlooked at worst ignored. It is vital that employers do their bit to keep working Britain healthy – easing the burden on the NHS and ensuring a motivated and happy workforce – and this means women’s health must be prioritised.

Not only should employers provide appropriate health support – such as 24/7 GP and counselling access - but they must also reconsider the wider structures in place for employee health. Managers must be equipped with the knowledge to signpost staff to the right resources, and trained to have comfortable conversations that start to break down the barriers so many of us have faced when talking about women’s health issues in the workplace.

Claudia Nicholls, Chief Customer Officer at Simplyhealth

Comfortable conversations guide

Simplyhealth has today released a Comfortable Conversations Guide to help employers and managers be more confident in having conversations – specifically around women’s health. We have been conditioned to think it’s not polite to talk about certain topics, but they are a core part of health and wellbeing. We need to lean into discomfort in order to support employees. This might include conversations around menopause, PMS, cancer, mental health or fertility. The guide can be downloaded by anyone here.

Advice includes:

●        Provide a suitably private space where you can chat without interruption.

●        Recognise that their condition or situation will make some women feel vulnerable and insecure and reassure them that they are highly valued in their role.

●        If a woman feels uncomfortable discussing their problem with a male manager, offer a meeting instead with a female manager or HR officer or colleague.

●        Follow up with a plan of what help you can offer and check in with them regularly.

A second new guide will allow people to have Comfortable Conversations with healthcare professionals about the most common women’s healthcare problems.



[1] https://www.oxera.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/230116_The-Economic-Cost-of-Ill-Health-Among-the-Working-Age-Population.pdf


Line manager and female employee health problem data: Between 15th-19th December 2023, Opinium surveyed 4,000 UK adults about their workplace health and wellbeing and employer practice. Of these 2420 respondents had a manager and 2420 had management responsibilities for others.

Menopause and menstrual health provision in workplace data: Between 21st-27th September 2023, Opinium surveyed 2,000 UK women employees on their views and experience around women’s health in the workplace.