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Government awards £2 million to support women's reproductive health at work

The UK government has awarded £1.97 million in funding to support the development of better support for issues including the menopause, fertility problems, and pregnancy loss in the workplace.

The funding will run until 2025, and is dedicated to providing between reproductive health support for women.

A total of 16 organisations have been awarded funding through the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Health and Wellbeing Fund, run jointly by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHS England and the UK Health Security Agency.

These include Endometriosis UK, sexual health and wellbeing charity Brook, Fertility Network UK, mental health charity Mind, Tommy's and The Women's Organisation.

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Jo Oxlade, deputy chief executive at Brook, said her organisation will use its cut of the funding to help break menopause stigma.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “It simply isn’t good enough that careers are being negatively impacted by symptoms of menopause. Brook has almost 60 years' experience working to support sexual and reproductive health. We know that stigma is a huge barrier for those accessing reproductive healthcare, whatever their age and stage of life.

"That’s why we are delighted to have the support of the DHSC Women’s Health and Wellbeing Fund to deliver our first ever Menopause Programme in Cornwall.

"The aim of our innovative programme is to empower women and those experiencing menopause and ensure they feel supported to remain in work, or return to work. We will do this through tailored one-to-one support, addressing the stigma and raising awareness of the impact the menopause can have within the workplace and providing practical support to local businesses to redevelop their policies and procedures so that they are inclusive of people experiencing the menopause."

Broadcaster Channel 4 and retailer Co-op recently showed commitment to supporting women's reproductive health, as both launched enhanced fertility support policies for employees in November 2022.

Rozie Corbett, head of development at Endometriosis UK, told HR magazine: "Endometriosis UK is delighted to have been awarded funding for the Workplace Menstrual Wellbeing project, which will provide information, guidance and resources on six of the most common menstrual health conditions, to small and medium-sized employers across England.

“The project aims to help increase understanding of menstrual wellbeing in workplaces and help ensure that more of those affected by menstrual health conditions have the understanding and support they need to stay in work and progress their careers."

MP Nicky Aiken introduced a Private Member's Bill to parliament in May 2022 which was intended to make it a legal right for women to seek time off for fertility treatment.

This was followed by a call from a group of cross-party MPs to make menopause a protected characteristic, in response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s (WEC) Menopause and the Workplace report published in July 2022.

Maternity rights charity Maternity Action will use its portion of the funding to support better health and employment outcomes for working women who are pregnant, recovering from giving birth, breastfeeding or experiencing pregnancy loss.

Women's training and support group The Women's Organisation, another recipient of the funding, will use the money to develop a health support package for SMEs in the UK.