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Inclusivity: five ways construction workplaces can support women

vfc article imgThe construction industry has long been dominated by men, but times are changing, and it's essential for workplaces to evolve with them. Creating inclusive environments for women in construction not only fosters diversity but also enhances productivity and innovation. In the run up to International Women's Day, which takes place on March 8, 2024, Nyaisha Sullivan, Construction Lead at Veriforce CHAS, explores five key strategies to make construction workplaces more inclusive for women.

Review flexible working policies

An impactful way to attract and retain women in construction is to reevaluate and expand flexible working policies which might include measures such as remote working and flexible hours. Traditionally, construction work has been associated with rigid schedules and on-site presence but research led by Build UK and Timewise demonstrated that flexible working can be implemented without negatively affecting budgets or delivery. What’s more, from April 6, 2024 new flexible working regulations will grant employees the right to request flexible work arrangements from the beginning of their employment rather than having to wait 26 weeks with other changes around flexible working rules set to follow. That means now's a good time to review flexible working policies if you haven't done so already. For more ideas on how to improve flexible work arrangements, see Timewise’s Ten Point Action Plan

Ensure workers have access to inclusive Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a critical aspect of construction work, and it's essential that PPE is designed with inclusivity in mind. Historically, PPE has been designed primarily for male bodies, leading to discomfort and safety concerns for women. Construction companies should invest in and provide PPE tailored to the anatomical differences of female workers. Better still, companies can involve workers in the trial and selection of PPE and seek out suppliers who offer support in finding workers protective products that fit. A list of inclusive suppliers can be found here: ppethatfits.com/directory/

Review the provision of welfare facilities 

Construction sites often lack adequate welfare facilities, and this can disproportionately affect women. By conducting a thorough review of existing facilities, businesses can identify areas for improvement, ensuring that women have access to clean and safe bathrooms, changing rooms, and rest areas. Addressing these concerns not only promotes inclusivity but also contributes to the overall wellbeing and satisfaction of the workforce. For further information, see the HSE’s latest guidance on the provision of welfare facilities on construction sites

Implement a menopause policy

The menopausal transition is a natural phase of life for many women, and addressing its challenges is crucial for creating an inclusive workplace. Construction companies can introduce menopause policies that include provisions for flexible working hours, temperature control on construction sites, and support networks for women experiencing menopausal symptoms. By normalising conversations around menopause and providing the necessary support, companies can foster a more inclusive environment for female workers. The CIPD has a free guide on managing menopause at work for people managers

Consult women on what they need 

Perhaps the most fundamental step towards creating an inclusive workplace is actively seeking input from female employees. Conducting surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one discussions can provide valuable insights into women's specific needs and challenges in the construction industry. By involving women in decision-making processes, construction companies can tailor their policies and practices to address the unique concerns of their female workforce.

Conclusion

Creating a more inclusive construction workplace for women requires a proactive approach. By reviewing and adapting flexible working policies, ensuring access to inclusive PPE, improving welfare facilities, implementing menopause policies, and actively consulting women on their needs, construction companies can foster an environment where all employees can thrive. Embracing diversity not only benefits individual workers but contributes to the overall success and innovation of the construction industry as a whole.

Find out more about Veriforce CHAS by visiting www.chas.co.uk or calling on 0345 521 9222