Is it time your workplace levelled up with a menopause support policy?

person in red sweater holding babys hand
Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

It’s something we’re not used to talking about but this month marks World Menopause Month and there seems to be something of a seismic shift, with the topic currently flooding social media feeds, company agendas and headlines alike.

Employers are paying attention and it’s about time. More than ever, women feel comfortable sharing their experiences but there are so many who do not – struggling in silence.

The most common symptoms experienced by women can include but are not limited to insomnia, fatigue, loss of confidence and hot flushes. To appreciate the scale of the problem and to give the situation some context, here are a few facts:

  • 70% of women are now in work in the UK.
  • Of those, 3.5 million are over the age of 50, with many women working beyond retirement age.
  • You don’t have to be aged 50+ to experience menopause. Some women struggle with symptoms much earlier.
  • A lot of the symptoms of menopause can’t easily be linked to menopause itself. Women are often mis-diagnosed with depression, anxiety etc instead. There is a fine line.

As we live longer and more and more women choose to work beyond retirement, it’s likely that employers will need to better understand how to manage menopause in the workplace.

According to a survey of women conducted by the British Medical Association in 2020:

  • 93% of respondents had experienced menopause symptoms, with 65% of those having both physical and mental symptoms.
  • 90% of respondents said that these symptoms had impacted their working lives, with 38% saying that the impact was significant.
  • 36% of respondents had made changes to their working lives as a result of menopause.
  • 38% wanted to make changes to their working lives as a result of menopause but said they were not able to.
  • 16% had discussed menopause symptoms with their manager.
  • 47% wanted to discuss their symptoms with their manager but did not feel comfortable doing so.
  • 42% felt that their job performance was adversely affected.

The impact on women and their job performance is clear but what can employers do to support women during the menopause? Here are a few ideas:

  • The key here really is to agree workplace policies that deal with health and safety, sickness absence, flexible working and performance management, taking into account the impact of menopausal symptoms.
  • Speak to your team to better understand any symptoms they might be experiencing and tailor your policies accordingly. Don’t be nervous about opening up that dialogue –  you might be surprised at how willing most women are to share what they’re going through, provided they know you care and that their opinions matter.
  • Keep working conditions under regular review.
  • Provide support for mental health and wellbeing. Menopause can impact your mental health and physical health.
  • Develop an inclusive culture – including actions to address sexist and ageist behaviours at work that prevent women speaking openly about menopause and asking for help.

Menopause is no longer a taboo. More and more employers are welcoming specific menopause policies. Isn’t it about time you considered one too?

Tend Legal Limited, London