The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) recently released new guidance on menopause in the workplace. The guidance explains how the symptoms can negatively affect some menopausal people and what the legal obligations as an employer are.

Recent research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) also found that two-thirds of employed women between 40 and 60 experiencing menopausal symptoms reported predominantly adverse effects on their work. It is pleasing to see such a significant step forward in promoting inclusivity and acknowledging gender-specific health concerns in the workplace.

The symptoms of menopause can impact performance, interactions, confidence, well-being and overall quality of life, making it imperative for employers to recognise and support the needs of menopausal employees.

Beyond the legal obligations, supporting menopausal people in the workplace can bring numerous benefits for organisations, including improved employee morale, engagement, and retention. By demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusion in highlighting the support provided and educating everyone in the organisation, employers can enhance their reputation as an employer of choice and attract top talent from diverse backgrounds.

There is a hidden talent pool among menopausal people. Despite their wealth of experience, expertise, and potential contributions, these individuals often encounter systemic barriers and neglect in the workplace which could also lead to further erosion of self-confidence. Failure to address their needs not only risks losing valuable talent but also perpetuates gender disparities in the workforce.

Building a supportive workplace

Organisations wishing to create a truly inclusive workplace need to go above the recommendations for legal compliance and ensure they are putting into practice support and education that meets the needs of menopausal employees.

Business and HR leaders should work closely with expert organisations, charities and their own menopausal employees to identify their specific needs and preferences and collaborate with managers to implement tailored adjustments that facilitate a comfortable and inclusive working environment. It is key that organisations don’t make assumptions about what employees require- ask what is needed as this can vary significantly from person to person.

In addition to fulfilling the legal obligations by providing reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees, organisations have the opportunity to go further. Implementing modern policies, such as a menopause policy, can be beneficial in providing support and clarity to employees regarding available support mechanisms – it also sign-posts to all employees that people matters such as these are recognised and important to business leaders.

A menopause policy should include:

  • an explanation of what the menopause is and how it can affect people
  • acknowledgement of the fact it can affect everyone differently
  • clear guidance on what support is available to anyone affected by it and their line managers.

It’s also crucial for organisations to ensure their HR software has an absence reason specifically for menopause so people who are experiencing the symptoms, feel listened to and understood, rather than being compelled to attribute their absence to another symptom. This will also help to ensure the organisation has visibility of the scale of the impact on the business and its employees and can use this data to help drive strategies to improve employee experiences. Equally important is providing training and support to managers on how to engage in conversations about menopause with their employees. Empowering line managers with effective training enables them to have open and honest conversations with employees who are experiencing menopausal symptoms.

The power of open conversations: A proactive example of support

AdviserPlus recently introduced a ‘menopause café’ for employees, which had been instrumental in destigmatising discussions around menopause. This initiative provides a virtual space for all employees to gather in an environment where individuals can learn, share experiences and offer support. By welcoming participants of all ages and genders, the café aims to dismantle the taboo surrounding menopause and increase awareness of its impact on those experiencing it, as well as their families, friends and colleagues.

Personal anecdotes shared during these gatherings were met with empathy and there were also useful conversations about the stigma associated with menopause now and in the past. Attendees at the café shared insights into the importance of having conversations with their mothers about their menopausal experiences. Many expressed that their mothers had navigated menopause without discussing it openly, revealing a generational silence surrounding this natural life phase. Others lamented the missed opportunity to discuss it with their late mothers which adds to the confusing feelings of navigating this stage of life, but also highlights the need to initiate conversations about it from a young age.

The discussion highlighted the importance of having open dialogue and inclusive conversations, and this led on to a very valid point that men need to be brought into the conversation too.

Bringing Men into the Conversation

While menopause is a female experience, it shouldn’t be seen as a women-only issue. Individuals of all genders, including partners, fathers, sons, and colleagues, can play a crucial role in creating a supportive environment. Involving everyone in conversations about menopause normalises the experience and empowers individuals to offer support to those in their lives who may be navigating this transition.

Everyone, regardless of gender, may encounter their own unique experiences with menopause or be impacted by it indirectly, highlighting the importance of inclusivity in discussions surrounding this natural life phase.

Leading by Example

For world menopause day, AdviserPlus invited their male CEO, Simon Fowler, to get involved in the conversation with one of their HR advisers, Sarah Howson, who shared her experiences of how important a supportive workplace is for employees going through the menopause. This was a very engaging session and proved to be one of only a very few webinars that included a male voice.

It’s evident that addressing menopause in the workplace requires a holistic approach that involves everyone, regardless of gender. The initiatives highlighted, such as modernised policies, comprehensive training, the menopause café and involving male leaders, exemplify the importance of inclusive conversations and leadership buy-in. By normalising discussions around menopause, organisations not only fulfil their legal obligations but also reap numerous benefits, including retaining talent, boosting morale and attracting diverse talent.

This shift in perspective, combined with the EHRC’s guidance, signifies a positive move towards a more inclusive workplace for menopausal people. By encouraging these open conversations and implementing supportive policies, organisations can empower their employees to flourish throughout their careers.

Jane Bradshaw-Jones
Jane Bradshaw-Jones
HR Business Partner at AdviserPlus | + posts

Jane has worked at AdviserPlus for over 11 years, previously as a HR Technical Consultant and now as a HR Business Partner. Her previous experience was in retail management in the UK and Republic of Ireland where she then made the switch to HR and Employee Relations in 2008. Interestingly, at this time, she did a 9-month secondment on planning for a pandemic, which she got to put into practice 12 years later. She loves all areas of HR but has a particular passion for diversity and inclusion and reward and recognition.