Menopause in the Workplace – the basics
Did you know that menopausal women are now the fastest growing workforce demographic?
According to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM), nearly 8 out of 10 of menopausal women are in work, and yet it’s a topic that is only just starting to be talked about in the workplace.
Businesses are now starting to create menopause policies as it gains traction in mainstream media, but if you feel in the dark or don’t know how to approach the subject, here are some things you need to know.
What is menopause
The menopause is a natural part of ageing. Essentially it means the end of periods, but this is not something that happens overnight. The average age to go through menopause is 51. It can be earlier than this, either naturally or due to surgery or illness. And symptoms may start years before menopause, during the perimenopause phase where the balance of hormones fluctuate.
3 out of 4 women experience symptoms, with 1 in 4 experiencing serious symptoms. These can include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Sleep problems
- Irregular periods
- Psychological/memory problems
- Changes in mood
- Loss of confidence
In the workplace, an individual dealing with lack of sleep, brain fog and physical manifestations of the above symptoms will likely need support, but the stigma around the topic means it can feel difficult to speak up when struggling.
A person going through the menopause could easily work for another 15, 20 or even 30 years once it’s over. However, one in four consider leaving, if symptoms become hard to keep under the radar. This means employers are losing valuable talent. Some companies have even been taken to tribunal – menopause is covered under the Equality Act 2010 under sex, gender and disability discrimination – so clearly this is another reason to know the facts.
What can your business do?
Start the conversation. When personal topics are brought into the light, people experiencing it feel less alone. Consider setting up training sessions for managers, helping them to understand and support their team members. Create guidance and policies that you can give to your employees, signposting places where they can find more information. Make it part of your company culture and wellbeing strategy.
Be ready to make reasonable adjustments – flexible working hours, working from home, desk fans etcs are small adjustments that not only show you care, but also help ease the effects of some symptoms.
Leaders and managers don’t need to be experts in the menopause to be able to support employees, just as they don’t have to be experts in midwifery to understand maternity support. By bringing the topic into the open and being flexible and supportive with those experiencing symptoms, you can ensure you hold on to vital members of your team for years to come.