Embrace equity for women working abroad
International Women’s Day, 8 March 2023
With the theme of International Women’s Day 2023 being ‘embrace equity’, Towergate Health & Protection is asking employers to support the equity and equality of female employees working abroad.
While the UK has laws regarding equal opportunities in the workplace, things can be very different when employees travel abroad for work or relocate for an overseas assignment. It is up to the employer to facilitate equity and equality for female employees, whether they are based in the UK or abroad.
Women working abroad may have more safety concerns than their male colleagues. UK Government advice says that while all travellers face risks abroad, in certain countries and cultures women travelling alone or in female-only groups can face ‘additional risks and obstacles’. It is vital that employers are aware of the differing cultures into which they are sending their staff and that they ensure that female employees in particular are aware of the dos and don’ts of a region. Local knowledge is crucial in understanding which areas are safe and which are not, and employers should put measures and policies in place specifically regarding the safety of female staff.
Issues relating to women’s health are given differing levels of support in different countries and cultures. Specific women’s health matters include fertility, maternity, menopause, and female cancers. These may not be managed in the same way in all countries. For example, awareness and access to information and services for menopause are still a significant challenge in many countries. Menopause is often not discussed within families, communities, workplaces or even healthcare settings, so the workplace has an even more vital role to play in providing support.
Specific health and wellbeing support is available for international employees and putting it in place is the best way to ensure that female employees abroad are cared for. Employers should carefully research what support is available to ensure that cover is comprehensive for women’s health matters.
The mental health of all employees abroad should be supported but isolation may be worse for women in certain countries. Culture again has much to do with this as women may not be given the same social opportunities as men in some countries.
Supporting the physical issues faced by women working abroad, such as fertility and menopause, will help to support their mental health too.
The emergence of digital support helps companies support women globally, such as providing access to online counselling, virtual support groups and mental health apps so that women can find help wherever they are based.
Employers can ensure that female colleagues are treated equally in terms of the benefits they’re offered, and it’s vital that the benefits are clearly communicated so women know how to access support when needed.
International Women’s Day is a day of empowerment for women but it also brings to the fore the fact that there is still inequality across the world, and employers are in an influential position to address this. Taking a strong and active stance in supporting the health and wellbeing of female employees abroad is a good step in laying the foundations to enable women to flourish.
Sarah Dennis is Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection, which she joined in 2014 following over 17 years working as a consultant and in senior management roles in international health insurance companies including Jelf Group, Norwich Union Healthcare (Aviva UK), HealthCare International, Goodhealth Worldwide Ltd. (Aetna...
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