4.3 million women aged 50 and over are in employment (ONS 2017). The transition to menopause can begin at 45 and the average age that it ends is 51. As an employer, you are very likely to have employees who are in the menopause transition and should therefore consider your policies surrounding workplace menopause support.
Under the Equality Act 2010, Menopause discrimination is indirectly covered by the protected characteristics of age, sex & disability.
So, your mature female employee is experiencing up to 32 symptoms which are either physical or psychological, for example, difficulty sleeping, concentrating, hot flashes, night sweats, and anxiety. These can easily affect their performance at work and should be managed and supported within the framework of this act.
The Health and Safety at work act 1974 provides for safe working which extends to working conditions for perimenopause people. Therefore, employers need to ask themselves: what adjustments have we made to support this group of talent? This is especially crucial as not making suitable adjustments could mean that women leave their job which will equate to gendered ageism.
Why should your organisation support menopause in the workplace?
You have seen the legal responsibilities of those in the menopause transition but there are other factors you should take into consideration too. Consider the work environment or culture your organisation creates when those in the menopause transition do not feel supported. 2/3 of women did not tell anyone at work about their symptoms due to:
- Concerns over privacy
- Fear of reaction
- Not knowing who they should speak to
Also, women have to take time off sick due to the severity of their symptoms. These short-term absences can trigger performance reviews or disciplinary action causing more anxiety for those in the menopause transition.
What is the cost of a lack of menopause support?
The government menopause and the workplace 2019 said:
“Oxford Economics suggested that if a woman earning £25,000 a year leaves her job due to problematic menopause symptoms, it will cost her employer over £30,500 to replace her. A survey of 1,000 women by Health and Her estimated that menopause costs the UK economy 14 million working days per year, in terms of time spent alleviating menopause symptoms”.
The lack of support for work has meant that those in the menopause transition have considered and do retire early. This can be at a personal and financial cost to themselves. Andy Briggs, the Government’s Business Champion for Older Workers, said:
Almost one million women have left employment because of menopause. The women affected tend to be aged between 45 and 55 – when they usually earn the most and can contribute most to their workplace pension.
Andy Briggs, the Government’s Business Champion for Older Workers
The decision not to support also impacts negatively on any goals to support diversity. Furthermore, additional insights and perspectives your organisation will benefit from having mature female employees are lost.
Why should you support menopause in the workplace?
There are significant benefits to employers becoming more inclusive, supportive and menopause friendly. Claire McCartney from the CIPD set out some of these:
Firstly a really strong reputational benefit for those organisations that are creating menopause-friendly workplaces. [ … ]
This should be able to help organisations attract and retain predominantly female talent who are often at the peak of their knowledge, skills and experience.
If we can create those open cultures, if we can train our line managers to have sensitive one-to-one conversations, then hopefully we will be avoiding a lot of that absence, which costs organisations lots of money.
Potentially we will also have less turnover within organisations, which certainly costs businesses lots of money.
Equally, support will help women to thrive in the workplace, which is exactly what we want to be taking place.
(As reported in the Menopause and the workplace government report 2019)
How can you successfully implement support for menopause in the workplace?
The transition to menopause is very individualised. This is important to note, as offering support is not a ‘one size fits all’ situation. What one person requires will be different from another. Employers must discuss this before deciding what they will put in place in terms of support.
A survey conducted by the National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28539167/ highlighted several ways that working women required support.
Employers/ line managers should know about menopause symptoms and how they might impact the working life of employees. Caution is to use this knowledge without generalizing and making assumptions based on the behaviour of a particular individual to use as a judgement of another.
Communicating with empathy demonstrates awareness of what the woman is going through. Being respectful, listening, keeping conversations private and not forcing women to discuss issues they are not comfortable with will help enhance communication.
A supportive environment around women’s health allows health and well-being topics to be raised easily where menopause is discussed or referred to respectfully and the topic is not ignored due to personal discomfort. This will involve a manager being trained on how to discuss these topics with sensitivity.
Improving ventilation and temperature control. Desk fans, cold drinking water, supportive seating, and uniforms that are loose with suitable fabric were areas of improvement.
Development & implementation of supportive policies which demonstrate awareness of menopause and support at the policy level after having discussions with those in the menopause transition.
There is still a lot of work to be done regarding supporting those transitioning to menopause at work. Here are 3 examples of organisations that have implemented support in their workplace successfully.
Ogilvy UK offers a range of support services for employees going through menopause and perimenopause. These include:
- Access to private health cover to help those experiencing (peri)menopause symptoms.
- Agency-wide educational sessions to reduce stigma around (peri)menopause and encourage open discussions on the topic.
- Line management training to enable managers to best support members of their team going through (peri)menopause.
The business also runs regular peer-to-peer community sessions for members of the team to share their experiences of (peri)menopause and speak with leading experts in the field to understand how they can support themselves and others around them.
They formed their menopause policy by consulting initially with their employee network groups that span a range of interests, from gender equality to parents and carers and then moved to focus groups of key stakeholders within the business. Essentially, they asked them what they wanted, in a sensitive but structured way and in a safe environment.
Men participate in their menopause learning sessions and the advocacy and allyship of men is something they are very keen to highlight across all their work that has a gender dimension.
Marks and Spencer
Marks and Spencer are using an app to engage with staff about their menopause condition. They provide non-medical support that some women are looking for to learn about menopause and build support systems that can help them control it.
Crawford and Company
They have a menopause policy and support framework for UK employees.
They are committed to raising awareness and providing support for their employees affected by the condition and offer dedicated counselling before, during and after the onset of symptoms through its Health Assured employee assistance programme.
They have also amended their sickness absence policy to include optional menopause additional leave of up to 10 days for women experiencing symptoms.
Developing a policy based on the needs of your employees and then implementing it makes business sense for three reasons:
- It will ensure your organisation is doing its utmost to support those transitioning to menopause.
- It will minimise the impact the symptoms have on their work and lives.
- It fosters a more positive and inclusive working environment. It helps to retain female talent and mitigates the cost of losing and replacing them in your organisation.
Monigho has utilised a decade of coaching and teaching experience to devise Perimenopause Warriors, a coaching programme that provides women with support, awareness and the skills to help minimise the effect of menopause. The programme's holistic, scientific-based approach includes a bespoke plan that empowers and reassures women that the symptoms and experiences they have are ‘normal’. Perimenopause Warriors ensures that with the right information and support, women can feel themselves again.