I’ve recently been spending time within organisations running workshops for women, HR teams and Line Managers on menopause at work.
The CIPD have recently released guidelines on supporting menopause at work: https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/menopause
Menopause is starting to be talked about in the workplace but it is still early days and can feel a taboo topic in many organisations. Here we explore why we need to support menopause at work and how to get the best support from your line manager.
How can menopause affect work?
Around 4.3 million women aged over 50 years are currently in employment in the UK. This is the fastest growing economic group in the UK and women now represent nearly a half of the UK labour force. This means that the menopause now affects more woman at work than it has in the past. With an ageing workforce many women are working through and far beyond their menopausal years.
Symptoms of the menopause last far longer than most women anticipate; the average length of time is four years and many women still have some symptoms for longer than ten years. The menopause can often occur at an important time in a woman’s career and many women do not recognise that their symptoms are related to their hormone levels changing. They often put these symptoms down to stresses at work and / or at home which can clearly contribute to their symptoms but this might not be the whole picture.
As many women still do not recognise that it is the menopause (or perimenopause) causing their symptoms, they may not talk about it and more importantly they may not ask for help. In addition, if their colleagues do not know enough about the menopause, then it may be very hard for women to talk about symptoms they are experiencing at work. At a recent session women felt they had to hide they were coming to a workshop on menopause for fear of ridicule and judgement.
Research has shown that 25% of women consider leaving work because they are struggling to manage their menopausal symptoms. Some organisations I work with initially say they don’t believe they have an issue with menopause as it’s never been brought up. However they are struggling to attract and retain senior females into leadership roles. Ensuring an organisation has the right support in place to allow women to succeed will only help with some of these challenges.
When women struggle with menopause symptoms they report feeling less engaged, less satisfied with their job, feeling more likely to quit their job and feel less commitment to their employment. In addition, studies have shown that menopausal symptoms can have a significant impact on attendance and performance in the workplace, with some women being misdiagnosed as suffering from mental ill-health or other conditions, and the impact on their work can be wrongly identified as a performance issue.
As well as considering leaving their jobs, women struggling with menopausal symptoms may feel reluctant to put themselves forward for specialist posts or promotion, thus affecting the diversity of teams within their organisations. Nevertheless, it is important that a woman’s menopausal status is not an automatic indicator of her likely perceptions of work or of her performance in the workplace.
What can employers do to help?
When menopause is managed correctly it can reduce absenteeism and also enable women to talk about their concerns with their work colleagues and managers. There should be measures in place to provide support for women. Employers have responsibilities for the health and safety of all their employees, but there are also clear business reasons for proactively managing an age-diverse workforce.
Employers should consider supporting menopausal women as part of a holistic approach to employee health and well-being. This might include risk assessments to make suitable adjustments to the physical and psychological work environment, provision of information and support, and training for line managers.
In November 2016, the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM) introduced new guidelines for women entitled “Guidance on menopause and the workplace”. These practical guidelines aim to help women experiencing troublesome menopausal symptoms, and to support them and their colleagues and managers in tackling the occupational aspects of menopausal symptoms. These should be used as a guide for both employees and employers.
The guidelines provide clear recommendations about working conditions for menopausal women. They advocate introducing
- training in the workplace to increase awareness of the potential effects of menopause in the workplace,
- adapting the workplace environment where appropriate (for example changing temperature of rooms and having fans available),
- making flexible hours for some women an option
- perhaps most importantly, creating opportunities to facilitate discussion about symptoms that are impacting on their ability to work.
However, it is also important to understand and acknowledge that some women will not want to talk to their line managers about their symptoms and this decision needs to be respected.
How has menopause affected you at work?
For more information join us at Menopause Club for Business to understand how we can help you or the organisation you work for.