Workplace health and well-being – It’s time to talk the menopause. A guide for employers
What is the menopause?
The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman’s oestrogen level declines. Biologically a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. Menopausal symptoms can last up to 12 years.
Menopause and the law
There are two Acts which can potentially protect employees going through the menopause:
- The Equality Act 2010 protects workers against discrimination; and.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states an employer must, where reasonably practical, ensure health, safety and welfare at work.
Menopause and the workplace, the numbers
Menopausal symptoms affect a substantial number of workers. There are estimated to be 3.5 million women in the workplace over 50 and about 75% of them (over 2.6 million) are affected in some way by the menopause. The average age for onset of menopause is 51.
The menopause is not just a female issue, it is an organisational issue and one that needs greater understanding in a workplace context. It is in the interests of an organisation to support workers with menopausal symptoms. As well as being a health and well-being matter, managing menopause in the workplace sensitively can enhance a businesses’ reputation and help retention and recruitment.
Symptoms of the menopause
Symptoms can be mild or severe and include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Difficulty sleeping
- Low mood
- Poor concentration
- Memory problems
If a worker is not able to get help and support, symptoms can lead them to :
- be absent from work
- lose confidence
- suffer from poor mental health
- a possible job resignation
Why do many workers not reveal their menopause symptoms?
Menopause-related absence may not be reported as such to an employer. This can be because the worker feels:
- their symptoms are a personal matter
- their symptoms might be embarrassing for them and/or the person they would be confiding in
- they do not know their line manager well enough
- wary because their line manager is a man, younger or unsympathetic
- their job security and/or chances of promotion will be harmed
However, if you become aware or suspect that their absence is due to the menopause you should deal with their absences sensitively.
Making reasonable adjustments
If employees are suffering from the menopause you may wish to consider making adjustments to the workplaceThis may include:
- the temperature and ventilation in the workplace
- the materials used in any uniform, and its impact on body temperature regulation and skin irritation
- somewhere suitable for the worker to rest
- whether toilet and washroom facilities are easily available
- whether cold drinking water is easily available
Develop a policy and train managers
It is recommended that an employer develops a policy and trains line managers to understand:
- how to have a conversation with a worker raising a menopause concern
- how the menopause can affect a worker
- what support and/or changes for the worker might be appropriate
- if a worker prefers to talk to someone other than their line manager, that is perfectly acceptable
- the law relating to the menopause
The leadership and HR teams in a business should make all staff aware that the subject of menopause in the workplace is one that is being taken seriously and sympathetically. A way to keep the positive menopause narrative on the workplace agenda is to appoint a menopause or well-being champion. This person could be a point of contact for both workers and managers who need advice, or initially someone to talk to.
A positive environment in which to talk about menopause may lead to more staff being confident to share their concerns.
Who to contact and further reading
For further information, or for advice on any other employment-related issues, please contact Nicola O’Dwyer on 01483 861848 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other available resources are:
- Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
This article and its contents are for the purposes of general awareness only. This article does not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included here. They should instead, seek professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.