Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace (Office of National Statistics) however, many of these women may be struggling to manage the psychological and physiological changes their bodies are going through.
A quarter of menopausal women will experience debilitating symptoms – from hot flushes and night sweats to increased anxiety – and for some it forces them out of the workplace completely.
It’s not really a surprise that menopause isn’t openly talked about in the workplace; symptoms are personal and sometimes embarrassing. A large number of women find their symptoms negatively affect their job performance and many lose their confidence. Research shows that almost a million women have left their job because of these symptoms (CIPD research). Others are forced to take long-term absence from work to manage symptoms, taking an average of 32 weeks’ leave throughout their career, resulting in a huge loss of productivity to a business.
It would be beneficial if businesses could recognise when support is needed and facilitate open conversations with employees about what they’re experiencing. Menopause shouldn’t be a taboo subject, and everyone should feel confident to have a conversation with their line manager, especially when they need understanding and support. Open cultures need to be created where women feel comfortable to say they’re struggling with symptoms. Internal campaigns or webinars for staff are a great way to do this, enabling and starting a conversation for people. External speakers who are specialists in the field, are another great way to engage with people.
Company policies also need to be updated to reflect the support the Company provides for those experiencing menopausal symptoms. It should be included in sickness and flexible working policies to take into account symptoms such as night sweats and insomnia, which could have an impact on the individual’s next working day. Companies must adopt a flexible and sensitive approach.
Managers have an important role to play in ensuring anyone experiencing menopausal symptoms get the same support and understanding as if they had any other health issue.
Line managers are typically:
the first point of contact if someone needs to discuss their health concerns or needs a change or adjustment to their work or working hours to enable them to perform to their full potential.
responsible for implementing the policies and practices that can help someone experiencing the menopause to feel supported, and to be effective in their role.
responsible for managing absence and keeping in touch if someone is off work ill or because of their menopausal symptoms, as well as supporting an effective return to work.
Risk assessments should consider the specific needs of menopausal women and ensure that the working environment will not make their symptoms worse. Often, making simple changes to the working environment can help to alleviate the impact of some symptoms.
A risk assessment should look at issues such as:
temperature and ventilation
the materials used in any uniform or corporate clothing
access to toilet facilities
access to cold water
Whether you’re a line manager in a large business or the leader of a small company, the chances are you employ or manage at least one woman. Often a few simple changes to someone’s working environment considering our tips as outlined above, can make a world of difference – enabling someone experiencing menopausal symptoms to continue performing and contributing to their full potential.