UK company offers paid leave for cervical smear tests

·Contributor, Yahoo Life UK
·4-min read
ISAWITFIRST are introducing paid leave for employees to attend their smear test. (Getty Images)
ISAWITFIRST are introducing paid leave for employees to attend their smear test. (Getty Images)

A British company are offering employees paid leave so they can attend their smear test appointments.

To coincide with Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (17th – 23rd January 2022), ISAWITFIRST say they will give employees half a day of paid leave, so they can attend their cervical screenings.

Recent research from charity, Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, reveals that shows that cervical screening (smear tests) prevent around 75% of cancers from starting, as the screening identifies those who are at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.

Although these tests are important and potentially life-saving many struggle to fit their appointment around their work and busy lives, causing some to put it off.

Read more: HPV vaccine could 'eliminate cervical cancer in young women'

New data has found that only one in five full-time workers were able to get a convenient cervical screening appointment last time they tried to book, with many forced to use annual leave, take a sick day, or even take unpaid time off to get their smear test.

This has lead to concerns from the charity that inability to get appointments around work is causing many to delay potentially lifesaving screening.

Watch: The benefits of DIY at-home smear test kits

There are many reasons that might affect someone’s ability and desire to attend their screening, but being able to fit in a test around working hours is often a significant factor, especially for those who work shifts or who travel to work.

And COVID-19 may well have exacerbated this as one in three say they feel less able to take time off to attend medical appointments because of the pandemic.

Reasons cited for work being a challenge to preventing smear attendance include inflexible bosses, too much work, shift patterns and it being difficult to ask to attend.

Read more: Chrissy Teigen reminds women not to skip their smear test during coronavirus pandemic

To help tackle the issue ISAWITIFIRST will now offer staff paid leave in order to attend cervical screenings.

All employees need to do to benefit from the newly launched initiative is show HR the invitation to get their smear test, and the company will then arrange paid leave to attend the appointment.

The brand hopes this will encourage its employees to get their cervical screenings without worrying about being able to fit it around their work schedule or having to use up their annual leave for what can be a life-saving appointment.

Many women are forced to take annual leave to attend their cervical screening. (Getty Images)
Many women are forced to take annual leave to attend their cervical screening. (Getty Images)

Commenting on the move a spokesperson from ISAWITFIRST’s HR department said: “Cervical screening is the best protection against cervical cancer, at ISAWITFIRST we understand the importance of attending these routine screenings and hope providing extra paid leave will give employees the time and confidence to go to these potentially life-saving appointments.”

In a bid to encourage employers to play their part in raising the profile of cervical screening and cervical cancer in the workplace Jo's Trust recently launched their Time to Test campaign.

The campaign asks employers to ensure their staff can attend cervical screening in a way that is convenient for them if they can’t get appointments outside working time.

Read more: Smear test uptake to 'check for cervical cancer hits an all time low’

It comes after 62% of employees said that an increase in discussion about women’s health in the workplace would make them feel more comfortable taking time off for appointments.

“There are many barriers to cervical screening but work is a very practical one which we can and should try to tackle," explains Samantha Dixon, Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.

"Whilst every workplace is different, we’re calling on employers to find a way to offer their staff Time to Test, especially as we start returning to offices, we must try to avoid putting more barriers in place.

"It’s worrying to see so many having to take annual or sick leave to attend a routine medical appointment, which will lead to some delaying.

"Employers can help stop this and make cervical screening and cervical health visible and important in the workplace, so more women can feel confident and informed to attend.”

Watch: Steph McGovern has cervical smear test live on TV in bid to raise cancer awareness

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