It is World Menopause Day on 18th October and the subject has recently gained momentum in relation to the workplace, with employers and employees encouraged to talk about the topic more openly. Concerned parties want to take the current awareness and turn it into action.
With an estimated 4.4 women in work that are menopausal – that’s 10% of the working population – it is perhaps surprising that this topic has been so low on the agenda for so long. Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce – 75-85% of menopausal age women are in work. It is estimated that as many as 10% of women have left the workforce because of the menopause and that, along with time lost due to sickness absence, can cost businesses in time and money.
Struggling in the workplace
Many women suffered in silence whilst going through the menopause in the workplace in the past, suffering perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms which affected their work. Many simply left the workforce having been unable to manage the symptoms and the subject being taboo at work.
Many employers now understand that offering support can keep this demographic with essential skills in work whilst helping to mitigate the effect of symptoms for the individual.
Offering workplace champions who have received training in the menopause and how to help employees going through it in the workplace may be an option for employers. Offering support is a win-win for staff retention. Managers are not expected to be menopause experts but awareness is key.
What can I do to help?
Women can experience a variety of symptoms varying from very mild to severe, for example; heavy periods, mood changes, anxiety, low self-esteem, problems with memory or concentration (brain fog), hot flushes, sleep problems, palpitations, headaches, migraines, muscle pain, joint pain, weight gain, itchy skin, increased occurrence of urinary tract infections. It’s quite a list! Of course, not all women experience symptoms that will affect their work.
By creating an open policy as far as discussing the menopause you can create an environment where employees feel more comfortable asking for help if they have symptoms they feel are affecting them adversely. You may be able to offer support by providing fans, good ventilation, working from home, availability of cold drinking water, flexible working hours, correct postural seating or using natural fabrics and loose-fitting styles for uniforms.
Providing an employee assistance programme (EAP) can also help employees with confidential support plus it saves management time.
Review your policies
Treating employees sensitively with more severe menopausal symptoms can avoid claims against you. There are some tribunal claims that have used disability discrimination legislation as combined symptoms can amount to a disability. Sex discrimination or age-related legislation can also be used. Some MPs want to make menopause a protected characteristic under equality legislation but that hasn’t happened yet.
Do I need a menopause policy?
Policies need to be updated to reflect menopause and it can be included in sickness and flexible working policies. Managers need to be flexible to their employees’ needs to ensure they are getting the best performance from them. Having a menopause policy can outline how you would handle certain issues as well as support that can be considered.
Discussing issues surrounding the menopause and making changes in your policies can help provide a more comfortable workplace for employees going through the menopause and can help to avoid turnover and loss of productivity in this age group.
Contact Liz Jewer on 07803 007591 for help with this issue.