Updated: Apr 20
Working through menopause can mean struggling with a host of symptoms. By putting a few simple measures in place, employers can support their workforce more effectively.
Menopause is a normal phase in a woman’s life, usually between the ages of 45 and 55, the average age being 51. In 2019 there are over 4.3 million employed women in the UK aged 45-60. As retirement ages increase, this means that women are working many years post menopause. However statistics show that one in four women consider leaving work due to greater difficulty managing their menopause symptoms whilst at work. If employers support women through this transition, they will be retaining experienced, talented staff as well as saving on recruitment costs and training.
Every woman experiences menopause differently and there are many different symptoms which can change over time. Physical symptoms include hot flushes, irregular periods and ‘flooding’ (very heavy bleeding), sleep problems and fatigue and urinary issues, while psychological symptoms include problems with memory recall, anxiety and worry, mood changes and loss of confidence.
Many women experiencing menopause at work suffer in silence and feel unable to seek the support that would make a difference to their working life. Combine this with the lack of awareness about symptoms (especially during perimenopause) and this is when they may consider leaving. The reluctance to discuss symptoms is understandable but organisations need to normalise the conversation so that women can discuss menopause without fear or embarrassment.
One of the first key areas should be on information about the menopause itself and the symptoms and experiences women may have across the different menopausal phases (peri- and post-menopause).
Some forward-thinking companies are already starting to lead the way in breaking the stigma associated with menopause to see it for what it is and bringing menopause support to the forefront.
These companies are recognising that menopause is not just a ‘women’s issue’ and raising awareness is key across all staff, particularly line managers who have responsibility for the health and well-being of their team at work. Information and education about the menopause in these companies is being included as part of the organisation's diversity and inclusion training for all employees.
Workshops, training, health and well-being days to promote information, advice and nutrition and lifestyle programmes all need to be introduced into workplaces as well as policy and guidance documents and the introduction of reasonable adjustments.
Effective adjustments can be simple and low cost however they can make a huge difference to someone experiencing symptoms to perform to the best of their ability. The business case is clear, but it’s also the right thing to do. It’s now time to take menopause off the taboo list and put it on the priority list.