Menopause in the Workplace: an important conversation from which everyone can benefit

We have a come a long way in the last decade to recognise how mental health contributes to overall wellbeing. Increased awareness has also helped break stigma and encourage people to seek support.

So, is it time to look at menopause in the same way? Whilst some work is being done, women often still face a certain level of stigma and stereotyping which affects all areas of their lives, including work.

What is Menopause?

The menopause is a natural part of ageing as a woman's oestrogen levels decline and periods stop. Every woman will experience menopause at some stage in their life and will be accompanied by a range of symptoms, with every woman having a different experience.

Menopause tends to last for a number of years and although the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51, early menopause can occur at any age, and in many cases with no clear cause. Sometimes it can be caused by medical treatments or other underlying conditions.

Here, Dr Jen Gunter provides a really quick and simple explanation regarding the changes that happen to a women's body during this transitional phase, along with some useful advice.

Why consider Menopause in the Workplace?

With over 4.4 million women aged 50-64 in work (ONS 2021), this employee group represents a significant of the workplace.

However, according to research by the CIPD in 2019, 3 out of 5 working women (aged 45 - 55) who are experiencing menopause symptoms, say it has a negative impact on them at work.

It is therefore unsurprising that this will also have a significant impact on employee attendance, engagement and retention.

What is being done?

Legally

  • The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee are addressing how the law protects women in the workplace with an on-going inquiry into "Menopause and the Workplace". Please see here to review the sessions so far.

Awareness & Education

  • Public perception and understanding of menopause are changing. This is partly due to the excellent work done by those in the public eye, (Davina McCall, Mariella Frostrup, Lisa Snowden to name a few).

Despite the increase in awareness, there are aspects of menopause that are still not well-known or recognised. When it comes to women seeking help, they sometimes do not understand that their symptoms could be menopause related.

Menopause is often seen only as a "woman's issue". However if everyone is given the chance to learn and discuss more openly, the benefit to the workplace and society can be much further reaching.

How can Employers help?

Here are a few ways that businesses can start to provide support:

1. Ensure you have supportive Policies & Guidelines

  • Acknowledge that people may not feel comfortable discussing menopause
  • Provide clear and specific guidance (e.g. include specific menopause support guidelines)

2. Help everyone understand Menopause

  • Raise awareness among all staff
  • Help everyone to understand menopause and reduce stigma (e.g. educational workshops)

3. Help Leaders support Menopause in the Workplace

  • Understand menopause & how it impacts the workplace (e.g. workshops, coaching, etc.)
  • Encourage open conversation (e.g. provide sessions encouraging open discussion)

4. Introduce Workplace Wellbeing Champions

  • Wellbeing Champions can provide on-going expertise and support (e.g. training can be provided to equip people with skills required.)

5. Consider the Physical Environment & Flexibility

  • Make reasonable adjustments to support employees, such as better ventilation, flexible working, providing noise cancelling headphones, etc.

6. Support with Tools & Techniques

  • Allow time for employees to practice techniques that can help alleviate symptoms (and support general health.) Different techniques suit different people but a few examples include Breathwork, Meditation, Yoga and Aromatherapy.
  • Provide sessions to help understand nutrition, physical health and all factors that affect wellbeing. This empowers individuals to look after their own wellbeing.

What next?

If you are considering how you can best support your workforce in this area, or you have any questions or concerns regarding the wellbeing of your people, please get in touch for a free, no-obligation chat.