Women’s health in the workplace: A necessary conversation

Trois femmes discutent ensemble

In 2023, women held close to half the jobs in Canada. Likely your team includes several women. But it’s rare that women’s health is specifically addressed in the workplace.

Women’s health is complex, especially during key events such as pregnancy and menopause and when they are affected by female-specific disorders. Let’s examine this neglected reality and the best means for employers and managers to address it.

How might women’s health be a factor in the workplace?

Female-specific health conditions may not be perceived either by the woman herself or by her team. But if the condition causes hurt or discomfort, her well-being and work can suffer. Let’s take a look at three aspects that may be an issue for female employees.

Le ventre d'une femme enceinte

1. Reproductive health and symptoms

Some of your employees may be experiencing the following:

  • Painful or heavy menstruation that causes discomfort when commuting or at the workplace
  • Fertility issues and their treatment, which affect stress levels and emotional well-being


  • Nausea and vomiting, especially in the first trimester
  • Need for pre-natal care, which requires frequent medical appointments
  • Difficulties finding comfortable positions for working, back aches and muscular tension
  • Increased fatigue due to discomfort at night

Returning to work after pregnancy

  • Complications such as infections or phlebitis
  • Certain ongoing symptoms, such as post-partum depression, requiring treatment

Every woman is different, that’s why this list is not universal or all-encompassing!

2. Perimenopause and menopause

Perimenopause (the transition to menopause) and menopause (This hyperlink will open in a new tab) can affect women’s quality of life. 95% of women will experience menopausal symptoms (This hyperlink will open in a new tab) at one time or another.

In some cases, these changes affect physical and mental health. There are dozens of symptoms such as:

  • Hot flashes that can become very disruptive
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes and irritability
  • Joint pain
  • Bladder issues
  • Weight gain and slowed metabolism
  • Increased fatigue due to sleep issues and hormone fluctuation
  • Anxiety
  • Memory and concentration difficulties

Did you know that approximately 1 out of 10 women will leave the labour market due to menopausal symptoms (This hyperlink will open in a new tab)? If managers understand this natural stage and its impacts, they can make the workplace environment more inclusive.

3. Specific gynecological disorders

Women’s health also includes widespread gynecological disorders such as:

  • Endometriosis, a complex, incapacitating condition
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome, the most frequent cause of infertility
  • Uterine fibroma, which are benign uterine tumours

The intensity of the symptoms can vary a lot from one woman to another. Here’s a short description:


  • Chronic pelvic pain, which is acute during menstrual periods
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Infertility or increased risk of miscarrying
  • Gastrointestinal conditions such as diarrhea, constipation and nausea
  • Inflammation and pain during sexual relations

Polycystic ovary syndrome

  • Irregular or lack of ovulation, ovarian cysts and irregular menstrual cycles
  • Excess androgen and estrogen, hirsutism (excessive hair in a male-like pattern), acne
  • Metabolic syndromes: Resistance to insulin, high blood pressure, high cholesterol
  • Weight gain, in particular at the abdomen and thighs
  • Headache
  • Anxiety

Uterine fibroma

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding, abnormal, prolonged bleeding between menstrual periods, sometimes causing anemia
  • Pressure or pain in the pelvic region
  • Back aches
  • Urinary symptoms such as the frequent need to urinate
  • Intestinal symptoms such as intestinal contraction or constipation

What does all this mean for your organization?

Female-specific conditions can impact your team and the company as a whole, especially if preventive measures are not taken.

  • Absenteeism or presenteeism. Employees are either absent or work even if their health is not optimal. This situation can affect their concentration and efficiency and raise costs for your organization.
  • Project delays and work overload. These can occur when key members of your team are absent or become less productive.
  • Increased management responsibilities. The need to adapt schedules or employees’ duties due to their health condition.
  • Reduced workplace wellness. This depends on a number of factors such as stress, anxiety, irritability, pain, with possible consequences on the workplace environment and relationships among colleagues.

What can you do for employees who are affected

Your human resources are precious and your support is too. Be sure to adapt your management and approach to one of prevention to meet women’s needs. This way, you will know how to offer your female employees the appropriate and respectful support they need.

Get informed and put your prejudices aside. Learn more about women’s health conditions. Keep an open mind and don’t be judgmental.

Listen carefully and empathize. When your employees talk to you about their health concerns, it’s a sign that they trust you. Your role is to support them without mansplaining (if you’re male), meaning not explaining things to them or giving them paternalistic advice.

Act in solution mode. Work with human resources to find solutions and arrangements that meet the needs of women’s health, such as extra breaks. In a situation of a labour shortage, well thought-out measures will allow you to retain your experienced employees longer, reduce absenteeism and improve productivity.

Show recognition. Employees who are suffering may focus on their difficulties and negative aspects. Remind them why you are grateful for their being part of the team. Highlighting their contributions and competencies will motivate them and strengthen their sense of belonging at a time when they most need it.

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Did you know that your group insurance can help out?

Group insurance is more than reimbursement of drug and healthcare costs.

A Manager Assistance Program (MAP) allows you to obtain online or telephone assistance. You have access to healthcare professionals and best management practices advice.

Employee assistance programs (EAP) give access to online, in person or telephone consultations and to a range of tools and resources. Your employees have options in the event they need such assistance.

In addition, short-term and long-term disability insurance provide financial aid to employees on leave.

Real-life examples

Natalie’s life has been upended by menopause. In addition to various other symptoms, she feels she’s no longer efficient.

Nora is undergoing post-partum depression. Her disability insurance benefit pays her benefits while she is recovering.

They have access to healthcare specialists, psychologists and social workers, thanks to their EAP.

Because she wants to support her employees, their manager uses the MAP services for...

Finding out about best prevention practices for Natalie

Getting advice on how to support Nora before, during and after her disability period This way, she’ll know to keep in contact with her employee, which will favour a return to work.

For more tips and best practices, check out the resources that your group insurance offers!

Because prevention is sometimes gender-specific

Managers, regardless if they are male or female, must be conscious of the challenges of women’s health. It’s essential for providing appropriate support over the course of their career.

By recognizing women’s health needs, you contribute to creating a more inclusive working environment that promotes everyone’s well-being.