Menopause In The Workplace
August 4, 2022
Jade Smith

Is your organisation discussing menopause in the workplace? In recent months you may have seen celebrities such as the likes of Davina McCall discussing their experiences with menopause. These campaigns have brought such discussions to mainstream media, raising a great amount of awareness about coping with the transition. Yet, menopause is still a taboo subject when it comes to work.

Overview

Menopause consists of three stages: Perimenopause, Menopause and Postmenopause.

Perimenopause is the onset stage during which many people begin to experience symptoms. Menopause occurs when menstruation has stopped completely, and postmenopause marks the lifelong period 12 months after the onset of menopause.

Perimenopause and menopause symptoms can be particularly distressing, with around a third of women reporting that severe symptoms impact their quality of life.

These symptoms may include:

  • Changes of mood, such as increased anxiety and low self-esteem
  • Brain fog
  • Hot flushes and dizziness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Weight gain
  • Skin irritation

It’s no surprise that these symptoms may have an impact in the workplace, ranging from discomfort to an inability to concentrate on tasks as well as usual.

Menopause Is A Workplace Issue

For those of us outside of the main demographic of people experiencing menopause, we may be thinking, “but how does this affect me?”.

Well, if you’re a line manager menopause should be a point of discussion, because menopause is a workplace issue.

First and foremost, menopause should be a topic covered in your organisation’s diversity and inclusion policy. As employers, we have a duty of care to our staff. Creating an environment which breaks the taboo of talking about menopause will produce a more inclusive, productive workplace.

The majority of people who experience menopause symptoms are women between the ages of 45-55. However, it is also important to remember that some people who experience menopause may identify as transgender or intersex. Further, 1 in 100 women may also experience menopause prematurely, as early as the teen years. With the potential intersection of sex, LGBT identity and age, it’s crucial that you don’t overlook menopause as a factor that could lead to workplace discrimination.

Menopause Affects Retention

Women in midlife account for 72% of workforce growth seen in the last 2 decades. Moreover, when looking at local government, we see that over two thirds of public sector staff consist of women, with the majority of staff aged between 40-65. This means that a large proportion of local government employees have likely experienced menopause symptoms at some point in time.

Yet, in spite of this fact menopause continues to be a source of shame for women. The British Menopause Society found that 45% of women have experienced negative impacts at work because of their symptoms. Further, 47% of menopausal women feel unable to be honest with their employer about taking time off to manage symptoms.

This has led to at least 1 million women leaving their jobs, as they no longer feel confident or comfortable at work. Given the current difficulty acquiring new staff due to skills gaps, you can’t afford to be losing top talent due to an uninclusive work environment. This means that supporting your employees experiencing the menopause should be part of your inclusion policy.

Menopause in the workplace infographic summary

What Organisations Can Do

As we’ve just discussed, the issue of menopause in the workplace is still taboo and a subject often kept under wraps. This has had a knock on effect on the workforce, with many people leaving work due to the disruption their symptoms may create in the workplace. So what can we do to mitigate that risk?

Assess Your Current Situation

The first thing to do is assess where your organisation currently sits on the issue of supporting employees experiencing the menopause transition. This may include your current policy, as well as a risk assessment for health and safety measures. Reasonable adjustments should be on offer to staff experiencing severe symptoms in order to make sure they have a safe work environment. Some of the things you may need to ask include:

 

  • Is your workspace adequately ventilated to help staff cope with hot flushes?
  • Is the temperature comfortable to work in?
  • Do staff have easy access to toilets?
  • Can staff take regular breaks to aid concentration and fatigue?
  • Is there somewhere quiet for colleagues to work if they have had issues sleeping?
  • Are employees educated well enough about menopause to show empathy to colleagues?
  • Do managers know how to talk to staff about menopause?

 

Once you have the answers to these questions you can begin to implement a health and safety policy and take measures to improve staff training. A fantastic example of a public sector workplace policy on menopause is contained in the NHS Menopause Guide.. This outlines to their current staff why menopause is a workplace issue and provides guidance to managers.

It is important to distribute this information to staff not only to create a more supportive environment, but to provide staff with resources about coping mechanisms.

Taking steps to reduce the taboo around menopause in the workplace will not only help to improve staff wellbeing and productivity, it will also feed into your brand as an employer. Want to find out more about how you can create a more inclusive workplace? Why not check out our article on diversity and inclusion?

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