Women need greater employer support

Adapting benefits to meet women’s needs can lead to a happier, more engaged, and more loyal workforce

Women need greater employer support

Women need greater employer support when it comes to the provision of healthcare and the creation of a culture of safety and well-being. Mercer Marsh Benefits’ ‘Health on Demand 2023’ research shows that men are faring better than women when it comes to mental health and psychological safety, and even in relation to healthcare access and affordability.

This is a critical issue, says the report. Both female and male employees note it is important that their employers strongly support women’s health. In fact, it was deemed to be the second most important issue after living wages, with 72% of all respondents saying it was extremely or very important. The general interests and equity of women came fourth, as identified by 69% of respondents.

Understanding the gaps

However, despite the clear demand from employees for businesses to support and protect women’s equity and health, major gaps persist.

Mercer Marsh Benefits says closing the gaps begins with benefits design. There is strong evidence to suggest that much more can be done when it comes to providing essential women’s healthcare coverage. In fact, the research reveals that only 55% of women say that the benefits they are offered at work meet their needs.

This has a significant impact on the way that women view the firms they work for. For instance, just 53% of women agree that leaders throughout their organizations are committed to and support a healthy culture, compared to 60% of men. Less than half say that their employers design jobs with health and well-being in mind.

Major missed opportunity

All of this creates an environment in which women are less likely to thrive in their roles, as shown by recent ‘Health on Demand 2023’ research of more than 17,000 employee voices. This is a major missed opportunity, as adapting benefits to meet women’s needs can lead to a happier, more engaged and more loyal workforce.

According to the report, key areas to address to support women include:

  • Affordable healthcare
  • Mental health
  • Reproductive benefits
  • Psychological safety at work

Read more: Actions speak louder than words in psychologically safe workplaces

A quarter of women are not confident they can afford the healthcare they or their family might need, compared to just 18% of men. At the moment, benefits programs are currently targeted towards senior managers and high earners. However, employers can ‘flip the pyramid’ and make sure that healthcare benefits are available to the broader workforce, including lower earners and part-time workers, many of whom are women.

Mercer Marsh Benefits says women face specific health challenges and too often feel overlooked by employers. They feel that their employers could do more when it comes to designing jobs and benefits that work for them. There is a huge opportunity here for employers to make a real difference that will be valued by the women in their workforce.

The report offers steps to address gaps in women’s health coverage:

  • Understand how your current program is seen by women in your organization

Does what you’re offering meet their needs? Where are the gaps? Get to know your employees and what is important to them.

  • Care for the caregivers within your workforce

Do this by reviewing caregiving-specific benefits, including subsidies for child/adult care, navigation to caregiving resources, digital health solutions for children, and benefits eligibility for extended family members, such as parents.

  • Tailor benefits packages to cater for women’s health needs at all life stages

Consider the following universal health issues: cancer, maternal health, violence against women, sexual and reproductive health and non-communicable diseases.

  • Place a particular focus on mental well-being and psychological safety

Work to create a ‘culture of caring,’ where leaders practice and promote openness and are willing to listen.

Helping women thrive at work should now be a priority for employers and benefits design. It is key to achieving a fully inclusive workforce.