Central Co-op offers wellbeing support to avoid poor gender health outcomes

Central Co-op genderCentral Co-op ensures all employees receive equal health provision and achieve good outcomes, no matter their gender, by supporting them through all aspects of wellbeing.

The food retail, petrol filling stations, funeral services and property investment business employs around 7,400 employees. To help employees better understand and access healthcare benefits, it launched a wellbeing campaign titled ‘We’ve got you’ in April 2024.

These healthcare benefits include an employee assistance programme, which can include up to six counselling sessions, access to trained wellbeing champions, mindfulness resources and wellbeing webinars, as well as a nutritionist. It also offers a health cash plan to help cover many day-to-day health costs, free flu jabs, free annual health checks and a virtual GP service.

Central Co-op ensures that the men and women it employs receive equal support and health outcomes through its wellbeing communication method called Wellbeing Wednesday. Each week, it focuses on different topical areas of wellbeing that align with the national wellbeing calendar, and events and communications are open to all employees in order to educate everyone and normalise conversations.

The organisation ensures topics are presented in an easy-to-access format, such as both email and posters for noticeboards, and uses straight-forward language, explains Naomi Smith, inclusion and wellbeing manager at Central Co-op.

“We link employees to internal or external resources of support and make sure we cover a range of wellbeing topics which impact all employees, while being mindful of intersectionality,” Smith says. “We use Movember each November to raise the awareness of issues which only or predominantly impact men through both our Wellbeing Wednesday and our Men’s Voices networking event. We raise the profile of wellbeing issues impacting women during Women’s History Month in March and also hold a Women’s Voices networking event.”

Central Co-op additionally offers policies to support its employees in areas which disproportionately impact women’s health, such as domestic abuse support, fertility treatment and baby loss. While it acknowledges that these issues predominantly impact women, it knows that they also impact men and non-binary employees, so policies are written in inclusive, gender-neutral language, and are accessible to everyone across the organisation.

It calculated that 39% of its employees are in the age group that typically experiences menopause, so has established a support policy, manager and bitesize guides, and webinars for staff experiencing the menopause themselves, or who want to be an ally for family, friends or colleagues. Meanwhile, through its women’s inclusion network, which is aimed at ensuring fair gender opportunities and balance, it hopes to understand what it can continue to do to support female employees.

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A key part of avoiding female employees being disadvantaged when it comes to health outcomes is to normalise the conversation around health issues impacting women, adds Smith.

“There’s still a huge taboo around discussing menopause and menstrual issues such as periods and endometriosis. Employers should have policies that support employees, and line managers should feel informed and confident to open up conversations. This can be done through manager guides, webinars aimed at everyone, and regularly sharing information and employee stories.”