Women make up 42% of the employed population in the EU. The jobs they do, their working conditions and how they are treated by society can affect the hazards they face at work and the approach that needs to be taken to assess and control them. Factors to take into account include:
- women and men are concentrated in certain jobs, and therefore face hazards particular to those jobs
- women and men face different risks to their reproductive health.
The impact of gender on both men's and women's occupational health and safety is generally under-researched and poorly understood. However, discrimination against new and expectant mothers is well known and HSE has been working closely with other government departments to tackle this.
Promoting gender equality at work and tackling discrimination
HSE launched and promotes an Equality Impact Assessment Tool to mainstream diversity in our day-to-day work. It is designed to help staff identify and minimise any potential issues around equality.
Building the evidence base
Our review of research on gender sensitivity in occupational health and safety has increased our understanding of the issues in this area. We have identified three subject areas to promote on our website, including key issues and messages. These are:
- male and female reproductive health
- older workers, in particular older female workers.
Our links with specialists in the fields of gender equality and occupational health and safety have improved. For example we:
- have met with the TUC Gender Occupational Safety and Health group
- have joined the Men's Health Forum
- are building contacts with the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Review of research into gender and occupational health and safety
Understanding the impact of gender (social) and sex (biological) differences on men's and women's occupational health and safety can help reduce inequality in the workplace.
A review of research identified three broad areas:
Gender balance in industry
- Some industries and occupations are dominated by one gender.
- Men and women in the same sectors, carrying out the same roles and tasks, can experience different demands. For example, female nurses tend to have more people-facing tasks than their male colleagues.
- There is a perception that the risks associated with female-dominated industries are taken less seriously than those in male-dominated industries.
Under-representation of women in health and safety decision making
- Women are under-represented in the health and safety decision-making process.
- Their views and experience of female-specific health and safety issues are often marginalised, underestimated or overlooked.
- Research studies tend to exclude or ignore women.
Gender (social) and sex (biological) differences
- Examples of gender differences in occupational health and safety:
- Differences in risk perception and risk management.
- Different working patterns. Women are more likely to work part-time than men, and in jobs of lower status.
- Outside the workplace, working women tend to have greater domestic and caring responsibilities.
- Examples of sex difference in occupational health and safety:
- Understanding the workplace risks to male and female reproductive health.
- The impact of gender and sex difference in older workers is under-researched and little understood.
Working together, sharing intelligence and good practice
HSE's External Diversity Team monitor progress against diversity priorities and the annual action plan.
HSE is trying to provide appropriate support by building intelligence we can share. If you have any information or research that would help us build our evidence base about health and safety in the workplace in relation to this area, please feel free to send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.