According to a study published in BMC Women’s Health, menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce, with almost eight out of ten currently in work. Therefore, the arrival of World Menopause Day on Tuesday 18 October should prompt employers to review their existing policies, ensuring more is done to support women that are experiencing symptoms.
Unfortunately, a staggering 90% of women say their workplaces offer no help or support to those suffering, and given that symptoms usually last around four years from when they first start, personal performance, mental health and business productivity can become impacted if the issues are ignored.
Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, but around one in 100 women experience it before the age of 40. Meanwhile peri-menopause, which is the period leading up to menopause, can occur for women in their mid-30s or even earlier. Considering that almost three quarters of the workforce are aged between 40-64, it is an issue that does not discriminate between industry and sector and one that must be taken seriously by business owners.
Whilst symptoms can range from cognitive, physical and psychological, the three most commonly experienced symptoms of menopause in the workplace are hot flushes (73%), tiredness or drowsiness (63%) and low mood (48%). Unfortunately, 34% of women said they had developed depression and anxiety, whilst 29% had significantly lost self-confidence as a result.
According to the CIPD, ‘organisations should treat the menopause as they would any other health issue, not only to break the stigma and taboo surrounding the menopause at work, but to create an inclusive environment where employees and managers feel able to discuss any reasonable adjustments that may be needed’.
Tina Chander, Head of the Employment Law Team at Wright Hassall, commented: “The menopause can be a very difficult time for women, especially if they are faced with the prospect of juggling work whilst experiencing symptoms. Even routine tasks can become challenging, and for many, the idea of going into the office can be overwhelming.
“Therefore, the arrival of World Menopause Day should encourage employers to be mindful of those challenges, introducing policies and training senior management on what the menopause is and what it entails. This will allow them to identify signs and symptoms and offer the necessary support to colleagues that are struggling.
“Currently, of the 10% of organisations that do offer support to menopausal women, 5% offer free advice, 3% have policies in place and 3% of line managers have been given training. Although this is a start, more needs to be done to increase this figure, so that women’s wellness is adequately protected.
“Whilst the menopause is not a specific protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, if an employee or worker is put at a disadvantage and treated less favourably because of their menopause symptoms, this could be discrimination if related to a protected characteristic, such as age, sex or gender reassignment.
“With this in mind, it is in the best interests of employers to ensure menopausal women are supported, with steps taken to improve their comfortability where reasonably possible.”
The responsibility of line managers
When it comes to supporting the health and wellbeing of employees, line managers play an important role in identifying issues early on and ensuring steps are taken to address the situation. Underpinned by an attitude of care, respect and compassion, line managers must be approachable, as this will help employees find the help they require.
For menopausal women, not receiving the right support at the right time could result in them leaving the business entirely, which can be detrimental, especially if those individuals have been delivering consistent value to the organisation.
For this reason, policies should be updated to reflect menopause, allowing flexible working if employees are suffering from symptoms like night sweats and insomnia, which can make going into the office a lot more challenging. At the same time, line managers should routinely check in on menopausal women that are working from home, ensuring they have what they need to work productively.
As a line manager, one of your biggest priorities should be to build an open and inclusive culture, where workers feel comfortable discussing their concerns, including any health issues they are currently facing. In doing this, you make it much easier for menopausal women to seek the support they need, allowing them to move forward positively.
For more information on how best to manage menopause in the workplace, read our complete menopause in the workplace guide.