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Why menopause IS a workplace issue.

Menopause is a natural transition that occurs in women's lives, typically between the ages of 45-55, (although 1 in 100 experience it under 40). Menopausal women are the largest demographic in the workforce, however, over 900,000 women have left work because of a lack of support around menopause (CIPD & BUPA survey 2019).

While it is commonly viewed as a personal journey, it's essential that we recognise menopause can significantly impact women in the workplace. Perimenopause (the time leading up to menopause) could last anywhere between 2-10 years and can lead to a range of physical and psychological symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, mood swings, and memory issues. These symptoms are disruptive and can have a significant impact on a woman's quality of life, including her work performance.

A study conducted by the University of Nottingham found that around 25% of women reported severe menopausal symptoms that negatively affected their work performance and productivity. These symptoms can lead to increased absenteeism, reduced concentration, and even mental health challenges, all of which can hamper workplace efficiency.

Menopause is still a subject shrouded in stigma and taboo, making it difficult for women to discuss their challenges openly in the workplace. A survey conducted by the British Menopause Society revealed that 60% of women did not feel comfortable discussing menopause-related issues with their employers. This lack of awareness and understanding can lead to inadequate workplace support and accommodations, further exacerbating the impact on women's well-being and job performance.

Supporting employees who are experiencing menopause is crucial for businesses as it not only helps create a positive work environment, but it also promotes employee wellbeing, productivity, inclusitivty and retention.

How can businesses raise awareness and implement support?

Although menopausal symptoms differ for each individual, businesses can implement various different approaches to provide support for all.

Here are some top tips:

Have a menopause policy. Tribunals citing menopause have tripled. Having a policy in place can prevent legal costs and reputational damage. A policy provides guidance for managers, ensuring that the right support for menopausal women is given. A policy can reduce staff absences, meaning your organisation remains efficient and productive.

Create a safe culture. To end the stigma we need women to feel comfortable talking about menopause in the workplace. A menopause-aware workplace enables women to disclose their condition, to seek advice, support and any appropriate adjustments.

Challenge negative menopause stereotypes to reduce stigma around the menopause.

Get SMT buy-in. Change starts from the top. Make sure the senior leadership team are aware of the impact of menopause in the workplace. Improve menopause awareness within the leadership team through training. This helps to embed menopause into strategy, so it isn't just a 'tick box'.

Reasonable adjustments

  • Support requests for flexibility – eg, work-from-home requests, reduce hours or changed hours temporarily.

  • Make sure that menopausal women have easy access to cold water, toilet and washing facilities

  • Put sanitary products in toilets

  • Have desk fans available

  • Look at your internal resources e.g, website information, your EAP

Staff training is key. A lot of people don’t fully understand menopause or its effects. Providing staff training helps to reduce stigma and foster an inclusive workplace culture. This can include workshops, line manager training, webinars and Menopause Champion training. Setting up a support network is another good initiative.

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