Health and Wellbeing at Work: day one roundup

The Health and Wellbeing at Work event is back for its 17th year at Birmingham’s NEC. Here HR magazine provides a roundup of some of the key takeaways from day one.

Sexual harassment remains rife in the workplace

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) estimates over 50% of women and 70% of LGBT+ workers are sexually harassed in the workplace.

Yet Kerrie Best, head of operations at Purple Leaf, said this figure is likely to be higher given some employees do not have the confidence to disclose when an incident occurs.

Best highlighted the importance of bystander intervention when witnessing sexual harassment in the workplace

She said: “Inappropriate behaviour can be on a spectrum, but whether it’s passed off as banter or something more harmful, it needs to be noticed and dealt with.

“Sadly research tells us that often people do one of two things when witnessing inappropriate behaviour: they might collude with it, or minimise and diffuse responsibility. Particularly in groups, people think someone else will intervene.”

Best urged HR to make the person who has experienced the harassment feel believed.

She added: “If they don’t feel believed and you doubt what they are saying, they will not disclose this information again. It’s important they feel heard, and that their feelings and reaction to the situation is validated.”


Employers need to do more to support employees experiencing pregnancy loss

One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, yet unless the gestation period is 24 weeks, there is no statutory right to offer paid leave to employees experiencing pregnancy loss.

Speaking to HR magazine editor Jo Gallacher during a Fireside Chat, Vicki Robinson, deputy director at charity Miscarriage Association, said: “When experiencing loss, employees will need varied reasonable adjustments depending on their needs.

“A lot of employees will need to process what has happened and will experience grief. Communication needs to be open with regards to what these employees need given everyone’s case is different.

“Some women may want time off during their next period or during sensitive moments such as their due date and anniversaries. They may also request to temporarily move away from pregnant employees.”

Robinson said line managers needed more support from HR when it comes to having difficult conversations around pregnancy loss, and urged the topic to be openly discussed in the workplace to reduce the taboo.  

The Miscarriage Association encourages employers to sign up to its Pregnancy Loss Pledge, which asks employers to understand and introduce pregnancy-related leave, create a supportive work environment and make sure line managers have training to manage challenging conversations.


Long-term health conditions at work could be eased by supported self-management, but these frameworks don’t yet exist  

Sally Hemming, health and wellbeing lead at EY, argued that despite the increasing prevalence of long-term health conditions, the workplace was not doing enough to help employees remain at work.

She said: “It’s calculated that 31% of working age people have a long-term health condition, which is expected to rise to 40% by 2030. Yet our research has found workplace self-management support is insufficient and not meaningfully provided.”

The presentation featured two EY workers with long-term conditions who discussed their experiences of illness in the workplace, and how self-management has helped them.

Examples of self-management ranged from options for remote and hybrid working, recognising differences in day-to-day symptoms and taking a flexible approach to working hours dependent on energy levels and mental capacity.

Sophie Sutton, EY consultant, said the main barrier of having a long-term condition in the workplace was the fear of being put at a disadvantage.

She said: “I do worry that I’ll be thought less of because I need support. I find myself nine times out of 10 saying I’m fine, when a lot of the time that isn’t actually the case and I would have benefited from more support.

"Having a culture of trust and openness in the workplace and being able to have conversations about it with colleagues really helps.”

Hemming concluded the session by encouraging employers to support and enable employees to self-manage, and create support frameworks and tools for line management, occupational health providers and workers.

She added: “Employers do not realise the control they have over other people’s health and potential work outcomes.”

The Health and Wellbeing at Work show takes place on 14-15 March at Birmingham NEC. Check back tomorrow for a roundup of day two.

Click here for a roundup of day two.