7 employee benefits you need to attract and retain female employees

Attracting and retaining women is crucial to the success of your company. Luckily, there are several changes every company can make to ensure female employees feel supported, valued, and genuinely happy in their roles. Here, we've put together a list of seven employee benefits you should think about to create a workplace that works for your female employees.

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Inclusive language at Fertifa

At Fertifa, we use the terms ‘’woman’’ or “women” to refer to those who were assigned-female-at-birth(AFAB). We understand that not everyone who is AFAB identifies as a woman or as any gender. We're here for anyone who identifies as a woman, man, gender non-binary, gender non-specific or anyone who defines themselves, their gender, or their sexuality in any way we've not mentioned. We want to make our content as inclusive as possible, but we're learning all of the time. Please don't hesitate to reach out if you feel that we can make our content, our language or generally anything at Fertifa more inclusive and representative of you.

Why is attracting and retaining female talent so important?

Women have been underserved and under-appreciated by employers for centuries. Although significant strides have been made in offering equal opportunities for women in the workplace, we still have a long way to go.

But why is it so important that we continue to strive for gender equality and equal representation in the workplace?

Well, aside from the fact that all employees deserve equal treatment and opportunity regardless of gender, being able to attract and retain female employees is crucial to your company's success. Here's why:

1. Gender diverse workforces produce better results

Studies have demonstrated that having more women in executive positions typically benefits a company’s performance.

  • A study conducted by McKinsey & Company found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.
  • Another McKinsey report revealed that companies with more diverse executive boards had a 47% higher average return on equity (ROE) than those with less diversity. 

2. It's a great way to demonstrate your company's value in female leadership

If you are a male-dominated company, you may be deterring strong female candidates from applying and shrinking the talent pool that you're able to choose from when hiring. When looking at companies and applying for new jobs, female candidates are likely to see a lack of gender diversity or underrepresentation of female employees as an implication of gender bias during the recruitment process, a workplace culture more suited to men, or a difficult environment for women in which to thrive and progress. If you're leading the HR team for a company that cares about building an inclusive and diverse workforce, this needs to be reflected in the people who make up the company.

3. The importance of female leaders

Having women in senior leadership roles is not just beneficial to your company, but crucial in the fight for gender equality within your company and beyond. Your company can help create more equal opportunities for women through the decisions it makes.

Aside from the bigger-picture social impact you can be part of by instating female leaders, there are several benefits to your company you may see:

  • It reassures current female employees or any female candidates of the potential for internal career progression and promotion opportunities.
  • It demonstrates a career path for women in effect.
  • It shows a commitment to address the gender pay gap (provided you are offering equal pay).
  • It shows a commitment to establishing gender parity and gender diversity in your industry.
  • It allows greater opportunity for in-house mentorship programmes.
  • Others will see your company as respectable and admirable - a recent study conducted by Forbes into the world's top companies found that although only 11% had female senior leaders, women-led institutions made up 17% of the world's most admired companies.

4. A core HR objective – you don’t want to be left behind

For companies with a disproportionately low number of women in senior positions, gender equality among leaders should be an HR priority. Aside from the benefits to performance and reputation we've covered above, this is because HR teams throughout the country are making concerted efforts to increase the number of minority people in a company, specifically in leadership roles.

  • A recent REBA study: 87% have a current or future HR objective to increase the percentage of women in leadership positions (vs just 3% of males) as part of their mission for greater gender parity.

If your competitors begin to outnumber you for women in senior leadership positions, they will reap the rewards, and you may just get left behind. Your company may be seen to value female leadership less or have a recruitment strategy that's gender biased. This can reflect negatively on you and put off potential employees from joining! 

7 employee benefits that are proven to attract and retain female talent

There are several steps you can take to look after female staff and attract the best and most qualified women to your company. From employee resources and diversity training to focus groups and mentorship programmes, there are lots of changes you can make that will help create an inclusive workforce that's supportive of women.

Here, we've assembled the seven most impactful employee benefits you can add to your benefits package to ensure you maintain an inclusive work culture and an attractive environment for women to work in.

Remember, none of these benefits should be seen as a tickbox exercise. To create an environment that's inclusive of all people, including women and all minority groups, a company must think about creating a culture that's inclusive, open, and accepting of everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, socio-economic background, and age. An inclusive culture is most effectively created when there's a multi-faceted approach to employee support, but with inclusivity and diversity being a key component in every decision. This extends from the company mission, to the hiring process, to the product you're building.

1. Flexible working arrangements

Since covid, lots of companies have introduced flexible working arrangements. Here, we've provided some examples to show you what flexible working arrangements might look like, how they can improve job satisfaction, and how they can attract a pool of strong female applicants for leadership positions. It's important to remember that flexible working policies should apply to all employees no matter their gender.

  • Flexible schedules and work hours: This is when employees are allowed to set staggered hours with a flexible start and end time to their workday, accommodating personal commitments or working preferences. Important personal commitments can prevent people from working at certain times of the day, and flexible working is hugely beneficial for all people, not just female employees. At Fertifa, we give all employees the option of setting up flexible work schedules so that they can work around important family or life commitments, such as a school pick up and drop off.
  • Remote working: Remote working is when employees are allowed to work from home or other locations when needed. This can be especially beneficial for mothers or parents who need to balance work with family responsibilities.
  • A flexible working policy: Implementing a flexible work policy allows employees to request time off or adjust their working hours

Make sure to put flexible working into practice

Many companies will "allow" flexible working without properly considering the reasons for it or making a genuine effort to put it into practice. For example, people at the top might book meetings during child pick up/drop off times.

However, It's important to lead by example. Even if you don't need flexible working arrangements right now, you never know when that might change, and you need to respect those for whom flexible working is crucial to accommodating personal commitments. So, be sure flexible working assurances aren't just empty promises, but actually in practice and serving your employees.

We've seen firsthand how including flexible working or remote working (when properly practised) in a job description can see a broader range of candidates apply for open roles. It also improves the employee wellbeing of your existing team!

Try to remember that flexible working serves to recognise and address the needs of every employee, including but by no means limited to women.

Changes to laws surrounding flexible work arrangements to be aware of

As of May 2024:

  1. Number of times employees are entitled to request a flexible working adjustment will increase to twice a year
  2. Employers must respond to requests within two months
  3. Employee must explain what effect the flexible working adjustment is likely to have on the company

2. Family planning and fertility benefits

Fertility challenges can have a significant impact on every part of someone's life, and this is especially so in the absence of workplace support. Fertility and family-forming support is becoming more of a necessity in retaining and attracting the best people, particularly female and LGBTQ+ employees. At Fertifa, we support every fertility journey, from egg freezing to embryo freezing to IVF. Through our personalised expert support, we provide our patients with the right care at the right time for them.

We know just how expensive fertility treatments can be, and that many companies will not be in a position to offer their employees coverage. For further guidance on how you can provide other forms of support for your employees, check out our piece on how managers can support employees through their fertility journeys.

If you’re curious about which companies are currently offering fertility benefits in the UK and what fertility treatments they cover, take a look here.

3. Childcare

For all working parents (not just female employees), childcare is an essential service that allows them to continue to work and strike a work-life balance that accommodates their personal obligations. Without childcare, parents might be forced to take an extended period of time off work, or even leave their roles permanently.

Unsurprisingly, 87% of people say that support from their current employer to deliver that childcare would make them more loyal, according to a study by Bubble.

Examples of childcare being offered:

  • Childcare vouchers
  • Creche facilities
  • Nannies and babysitters
  • Emergency nannying
  • Daycare or nurseries on-site
  • Time off for staff without impacting annual leave

Working examples:

Etsy – “gender blind” parental leave. 26 weeks to be used within two years of the baby’s birth.

Cisco – offers a nursery at one of their offices.

Uber x Bubble - Companies such as Uber have partnered with childcare services such as Bubble, offering to cover the cost of sitters booked through the app. Although Uber are a large, established company, you can work with Bubble to find a solution within your budget.

Much like flexible working arrangements, if you can include childcare benefits in your job descriptions, you'll be much more likely to attract the best talent among working parents during the recruitment process. Remember, childcare is an essential service for all working parents, no matter their gender.

4. Maternity leave or parental leave

Having a parental leave policy in place is a necessity in any workplace. Maternity leave laws in the United Kingdom provide mothers with the necessary time off for childbirth and early childcare.

Under statutory maternity leave regulations, mothers are entitled to the following:

  • If you are employed and pregnant, you are entitled to 52 weeks (1 year) of maternity leave, no matter how long you've worked for your employer. This involves 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave, and 26 weeks of "additional" maternity leave.
  • You have a range of rights during this period and can also request that your employer provides flexible working arrangements if you decide to return to work at the end of your leave.
  • Your employment terms (for example, your pension contributions) are protected while you're on Statutory Maternity Leave.
  • If you're made redundant while on Statutory Maternity Leave, you also have extra rights.

Please see this government guide for a more detailed look at these Statutory Maternity Leave regulations.

Building an inclusive parental leave policy

Policies can sometimes be constraining and can overlook certain experiences or situations. When considering family forming and parental leave policies, make sure that you’re thinking about all the different pathways to parenthood. We’d recommend leaving your definition of parenthood as broad as possible so it can include all possible journeys. Think about all family forming pathways like surrogacy, adoption and using an egg or sperm donor to avoid accidental gender bias.

Take into account the correct level of support and guidance for every route and every kind of outcome (for example dealing with involuntary childlessness as the outcome of a fertility journey). Becoming a parent through IVF will look very different to becoming a parent through surrogacy. You’ll need to consider fertility treatments for people becoming a parent on their own, same-sex couples and trans or non-binary people.

Companies with creative and effective approaches to their parental leave policy

As a company, you're also expected to have an internal parental leave policy. So long as it follows the regulations listed above, you can tailor your policy to meet the needs of your employees.

So, how do you structure it?

Every company works differently. Some are particularly busy during certain times of the year, for others, the workload is evenly spread. Some companies may not yet be in a position to compete with the length of paid leave that other, larger ones are able to provide.

Here are some examples of how different companies are structuring their maternity leave in ways that suit their business goals and the needs of their employees.

Accenture – The tech company offers 36 week’s full pay.

Vodafone – 16 weeks paid maternity leave and six months of four-day weeks.

What if you’re a smaller company?

If your company is eligible for Small Employer’s relief, you should be able to reclaim 103% of the Statutory Maternity PayKeep in touch days (KIT) – One alternative is to introduce paid KIT days. You will have to decide for yourself what exactly constitutes a KIT day based on your company and employee’s needs. Common examples include:

  • Catch-up calls with colleagues covering for you in your absence.
  • Discussing your wellbeing with your manager, and how best they can support you in your return to work.
  • Attending important training sessions.
  • A personal Q&A session where colleagues can ask questions they've been unable to in your absence.

If you are struggling to write your maternity leave policy, get in touch at equiries@fertifa.com, and we'd be happy to share one of the templates we've drafted internally or for clients.

Shared parental leave

In so many cases, maternity or paternity leave periods aren't enough. Shared Parental Leave (SPL) in the UK is a policy that allows eligible parents to share time off work to care for their child. It provides flexibility in how parents choose to divide the leave and pay entitlement during the first year after the child's birth or adoption. Please see this government guideline for more information on how shared parental leave works.

5. Menstrual leave

Menstrual leave on of the most important benefits for women because it recognises and addresses the unique challenges and health issues that some individuals may face during menstruation. It helps promote workplace inclusivity, supports employee well-being, and acknowledges the need for flexibility in work policies to accommodate different health needs.

During a person's period, they might experience a range of symptoms that impair their ability to produce their best work including headaches, nausea and light-headedness. A study by the CIPD found that 53% of women have had to take time off work due to menopause symptoms.

While there is no current law in the UK that mandates the provision of menstrual leave to employees, it’s important to stay educated on the impacts of periods and menstruation.

6. Menopause support

Employers in the UK can offer menopause support to employees in various ways to create a more inclusive workplace culture. The best place to start will be implementing a menopause policy.

Establishing a menopause policy not only illustrates to female candidates and employees that you understand the effects it can have in the workplace, but also makes clear what adjustments staff are entitled to. If you're unsure of how to get started, take a look at our guide on how to write an inclusive and comprehensive menopause policy.

A few other ways to support your colleagues through menopause:

  • Flexible working: As we touched on above, flexible working adjustments are important in ensuring the wellbeing of all employees.
  • Normalise the conversation: Opening up the discussion can help establish a supportive company culture where people feel comfortable raising their concerns.
  • Don't make assumptions: Everyone's experience of the menopause will be unique. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to the menopause, and there won't be a one-size-fits-all policy you can implement.
  • Office adjustments: Providing employees with items that can help relieve menopause symptoms such as desk fans, or establishing designated spaces for people who need to administer their treatment can make all the difference.

Menopause is something so many of us will go through. It's time to talk about it openly and break down those barriers. Through our in-house clinical team, we support your employees with ongoing care throughout their menopause and perimenopause journeys.

If you're interested in seeing how Fertifa can support your employees through menopause, book a call through the button below.

7. Pregnancy loss leave

Pregnancy loss is more common than you might think, with 1 in 8 known pregnancies resulting in miscarriage. Although it happens to so many people, and every person will experience pregnancy loss in their own way, for lots of people it can be a very difficult thing to go through.

Having a pregnancy leave policy is important for these reasons:

  • You're prioritising the wellbeing of your employees. Pregnancy loss can be a traumatic experience. By offering them support through flexible hours or time off, you are putting their health and wellbeing above everything else.
  • Supporting employees through pregnancy demonstrates a commitment to an open and supportive workplace culture.
  • A pregnancy loss policy may seem like a minor addition, but male or female applicants who are trying to get pregnant or have experienced pregnancy loss will place a huge amount of importance on policies like this.

Which companies are providing outstanding support to employees experiencing pregnancy loss?

Even with employee wellbeing at heart, it's not always easy for HR teams and managers to know what support to offer people going through pregnancy loss. Here are a few examples of companies getting it right.

  • Channel Four offer two-weeks full pay and counselling.
  • Monzo Bank, one of our amazing Fertifa clients, offers both partners up to ten days of paid leave, after a miscarriage, stillbirth or an abortion.
  • YuLife’s pregnancy loss policy gives employees five days of paid leave whether they or their partner are the ones who miscarried.

One final thing to keep in mind!

When writing a pregnancy loss policy, it's important to remember that it's not just women or expecting mothers who are affected by pregnancy loss. For example, a same-sex male couple going through the surrogacy process may be impacted by pregnancy loss, even if they aren't physically experiencing it themselves. Make sure the language you use is inclusive so that your employees know that support provided for pregnancy loss applies to everyone regardless of gender.

Get in touch to discover more!

If you're looking for support, guidance or information on any of the topics mentioned above, please do not hesitate to get in touch using the button below. We are here every step of the way and more! 💜