MENOPAUSE IN THE WORKPLACE - MAKING IT MATTER
Updated: Oct 22, 2022
Menopause in the workplace is a growing area of recognition, and rightly so. Statistics show that 1 in 5 women will consider leaving work due to their menopause symptoms. One in 10 women will leave their job due to their menopause symptoms.
Symptoms of menopause include:
Forgetfulness and brain fog.
Loss of confidence, difficulty making decisions or problem-solving.
Low mood, irritability, and lacking motivation and drive.
Anxiety, constantly worries about things, feelings of being overwhelmed.
A general feeling of “not being yourself”.
Night sweats/hot flushes
These symptoms can take the joy out of work and make continuing work difficult without the proper support.
How does Menopause affect the workplace?
Effects of menopause symptoms on work can include:
Reduced job satisfaction
Reduced commitment and engagement
Higher sickness absence
Desire to leave work
Mental health issues
And adverse effects on:
Reduced productivity, sickness, and recruitment due to Menopause can have significant cost implications for a business.
Putting a support structure in place can prevent many of these implications. Many women report that empathy and understanding from their colleagues are the main things that enable them to continue in their jobs.
By openly discussing Menopause, raising awareness on what it is and the impact it has on women, we can reduce the stigma around it that many women feel. Incorporating workplace adaptations and support will enable many of these women to stay at work and continue using their skills in the best way possible.
What is Menopause a policy?
Although there is currently no legislation that requires employers to have a menopause workplace policy in place, having a policy, or in the very least a document to provide guidance, should be the goal of every employer.
A menopause policy would provide clear directions for staff and employees on how to seek and provide help. A comprehensive approach would provide guidelines for:
Risk assessments considering individual needs.
Adjustments to working conditions and flexible working.
Training and raising awareness for staff.
Signposting – Women should know whom to speak to and managers whom to refer to, e.g. Occupational Health and GP.
Measures to tackle the stigma around Menopause
What should employers do to support workers going through Menopause in the workplace?
Every employer should aim to create an environment in which employees can talk about Menopause openly and without embarrassment. This must be normalised as a natural phase in every woman’s life. Raising awareness in the form of talks or training will start the conversation around menopause, break the ice and create an open environment for women to talk about their symptoms.
Many women may be uncomfortable disclosing their difficulties to their line managers. But this can be overcome with managers trained with a basic level of knowledge,
understanding how they can support and have a good, supportive conversation. They don’t need to be experts on the subject, but a little knowledge and empathy can go a long way.
It might be possible to provide practical support, such as making necessary changes to the office environment to address physical effects and manage stress levels and any problems they are having with memory or concentration.
Examples of possible initiatives are:
Adequate ventilation access to fans, good ventilation including windows which open and blinds that can be drawn, ability to control temperature via air conditioning or heating.
Access to cold drinking water to allow better management of hot flushes.
Clean, well-equipped and comfortable toilet facilities.
Working environment;- a reduction of noise exposure to help reduce fatigue.
Quiet workplace rest areas.
Signposting to helplines and sources of guidance for managing their symptoms and lifestyle, such as a website (e.g. Women Health Concern), Occupational Health (OH), and GP, should be done where appropriate.
Menopausal women may experience bouts of feeling unwell at work, so managers should take a flexible and sympathetic approach to requests for a break or let them return home if they become unwell at work.
All employers have a legal duty under the Equality Act 2010 to proactively make reasonable adjustments to remove, reduce or prevent any disadvantages disabled workers face, as Menopause may meet the definition of a disability under the Equality Act.
Employers should record disability-related absence from sickness absence separately from sick leave unconnected to this. This recognises that disabled workers may have different and higher forms of sickness absence and would be at a disadvantage if sick leave and disability-related leave were recorded in the same place, with varying HR processes being triggered as a result.
What are the benefits to the employer?
Short-term investment can prevent long-term issues. There have been Menopause related tribunals already that have been found in favour of the employee. There are likely more to come. Menopause is covered under the Equality Act 2010 and can be on the grounds of sex, age or disability discrimination. Employers will want to avoid getting this far, and taking steps to provide support to women will help protect them against any legal proceedings.
Financial benefits to organisations are clear. Considering the relatively small investment in the activity, the financial payback would be quick considering the cost of recruitment to replace women who leave the business, the cost of absence and the cost of employee relations issues or tribunals.
Being a Menopause-friendly organisation will help with recruitment, is suitable for employment brands and is part of future-proofing businesses.
Thinking about creating a menopause-friendly workplace will reap rewards in the future, as well as prevent problems and disputes. With the statistics showing that 1 in 10 women leave the workplace due to menopause symptoms, investing in some basic support can prevent significant workplace problems for women and unnecessary losses to businesses.