How Equipsme can help businesses help women

How Equipsme can help businesses help women

In the UK, 15.66 million women aged 16 and over were in employment in October to December 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics UK labour market bulletin. They’re the backbone of many industries, for instance making up 77% of the health and social care workforce, and 70% of the education workforce.

But women’s health, and its impact on workplaces, has long been overlooked. Historically, women’s pain is often dismissed, mental health minimised as hysteria, and ‘women’s issues’ seen as both exaggerated and taboo.

In a recent government survey, 84% of women felt they weren’t always listened to even by medical professionals, and half felt their workplaces hadn’t been supportive of their health issues. Given those experiences, 65% didn’t feel comfortable talking about their health at work.

As a result, women are falling behind or even out of the UK workforce. Of the 62% who had a health condition or disability that impacted their working life, 76% said it increased their stress levels, 26% said it impacted their earnings, 25% said it affected their opportunities for promotion, and 22% said they stopped work earlier than planned.

It’s a subject Rhonwen Beesley, Equipsme’s Director of Operations is passionate about. She says: “Women are not just women outside of work. Women’s health issues impact the workplace, and workplaces need to understand, accommodate, and address them.

“Every single month, for instance, women go through hormonal changes, and for some that will bring significant challenges. How can you support them? What policies are in place? What training is in place for your managers? Some women in your organisation may get pregnant, and every single woman will also go through the menopause – probably just as she hits the height of her career. How will you make sure women are not amongst the 10% that consider leaving work to deal with their symptoms?

“It’s not just about individuals. The health of your workforce IS the health of your business, and proactively supporting women’s health, making is easy for them to talk openly about the health issues impacting them, from breast cancer to miscarriage, menopause to endometriosis, hyperemesis gravidarum to hysterectomies, is key.

“What’s more, it could help your business improve sickness absence, support productivity and performance, grow engagement and satisfaction, retain and nurture internal talent - and potentially meet diversity and inclusion targets.”

How your Equipsme plan can help your business help women

Your Equipsme plan can help you help women get information, support and advice about the health issues impacting them. Here’s some of the services we offer, and that you can be signposting as part of your female-focussed health and wellbeing campaigns:

1. Second opinion service

Our 24/7 GP service offers women a really important opportunity to seek a second opinion. We know many women can struggle to get community GPs to take them seriously. As examples, it takes 7.5 years on average for women to be diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition 1 in 10 British women has, where tissue like that in the womb is found elsewhere in the body and can cause chronic pain, heavy bleeding and infertility.

Similarly, a quarter of women visiting the GP seeking help for menopause symptoms are sent away, many often with an incorrect diagnosis of depression. 1 in 4 will experience severe debilitating symptoms including mood problems, sleep problems, itching, and cognitive changes affecting memory and concentration.

If women in your organisation cannot get the right support elsewhere, they can take their symptoms to our 24/7 GP service, ask for an appointment at a convenient time, and have an in depth conversation with a qualified doctor. From there they can pay for a prescription, have advice to take back to their own GP, and even get a referral to a specialist to use as part of a claim if diagnosis or treatment are also part of your plan.

Useful information for members:
Find out more about the GP service

2. Diagnosis service

With so many health issues, getting swift answers is absolutely essential. With breast cancer, for instance, nearly 100% of those diagnosed at stage 1 will survive for 5 years or more. By stage 4, only 25% will survive 5 years or more after diagnosis.

While Equipsme doesn’t cover cancer treatment, what it does is help get people to the right place and the right doctor to get answers as quickly as possible.

Useful information for members:
Find out more about seeing a private consultant

3. Pregnancy support

Like most PMI, Equipsme does not cover fertility treatment or day-to-day pregnancy monitoring, but midwives do make up part of the team of health professionals on the other end of the phone at the AXA Health nurse advice line - Health at Hand. They can talk women through any symptoms, worries or questions, and are there as an extra support if women need to talk to someone about their pregnancy.

Useful information for members:
Find out more about the nurse support line

4. Menopause support

If someone is having gynaecological issues related to the menopause and needs further investigation, when diagnosis is part of your plan they may get an open referral which can be referred to AXA Health to assess and if covered, help find a specialist through their new Menopause Pathway.

This is big news, because menopause is often also excluded from private medical insurance. While members can’t use the Equipsme plan for routine menopause management - they CAN use it for diagnosis, and get to see someone from a network of recognised AXA Health specialists accredited with the British Menopause Society.

Useful information for members:
How Equipsme can help with the menopause

5. Testing kits

Sometimes, women’s symptoms can be really vague and difficult to put together. Things like fatigue, period problems and digestive issues could all be interlinked, and related to hormones, gynaecological or other issues.

With Equipsme, members have access to health check kits via our partners at Thriva, and a £10 voucher towards a test of their choice. It means they can take their health into their own hands, with things like the fertility insights test, or female hormones test, and get information and insight about what’s going on inside their bodies.

Useful information for members:
Find out more about our health checks

6. Stress support

Going through any sort of health issue can be an incredibly difficult time, and an incredibly lonely time. If you’ve added stress support to your Equipsme plan it’s well worth reminding people that this confidential EAP service is there for them to use – and even extends to face-to-face sessions if it’s felt they’re needed.

Useful information for members:
Our cancer cover
How to use the Equipsme Stress Support line