Breaking the taboo of menopause in the workplace

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Health Assured team

13 October 2021

Most women will experience menopausal symptoms during their working life. And according to CIPD research, three out of five women experiencing these symptoms say it has a negative impact on their work.

At any one time, this means that it’s statistically likely that someone in your organisation is experiencing these symptoms and the negative effects on their work. And while menopause is often hidden away, regarded as ‘the ultimate taboo,’ it’s vital that you take steps to understand the menopause—and how good menopause in the workplace policy can help to reduce the stigma.

What is the menopause?

The menopause is a natural part of ageing that all women experience, usually between 45 and 55 years of age, when their oestrogen levels decline¹. As a result, a woman will stop having periods, and will no longer be able to conceive without medical help. Signs and symptoms of the menopause include:

• Low mood
• Anxiety
• Depression
• Memory loss
• Problems concentrating
• Disturbed sleep patterns & night sweats
• Joint stiffness, aches and pains
• Hot flushes
• Headaches

From this list, it’s evident how an employee’s life at work can soon become difficult. What were once easy tasks now become a chore, causing employees to feel demotivated and disengaged. The stigma surrounding the menopause in the workplace often makes this situation even more frustrating.

Employers have a duty of care to look after their staff. As advised by Acas, the Equality Act (2010) protects employees from discrimination at work due to the menoupause. Further to this, the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) states that employers must ensure employee health, safety and welfare at work where possible.

Menopause policy in the workplace

One of the first steps you can take to protect and support employees going through the menopause is to create a menopause policy. Here are some examples of what such a policy should contain:

Open, honest communication: your staff should be able to speak about any issue, not just menopause—but menopause is very important. Don’t make it the focus of a communication plan, but make sure people know that it’s okay to approach a manager with issues.


Confidentiality: once someone brings up menopause, that conversation needs to be completely confidential. Your employees should know that they can trust your organisation with personal details and problems.


Understanding: training on the law around menopause at work, and how to sensitively handle conversations is a must.

Menopause support in the workplace

According to CIPD, only 32% of menopausal women get the support they need from their managers. Also, the Faculty of Occupational Health (FOM) has found that most working women are unwilling to disclose menopause-related health problems to line managers.

Clearly, not enough is being done to help make employees feel comfortable discussing health concerns. Yet, there are several benefits to the effective management of team members with menopausal symptoms.

Not only will it help you cultivate a working culture of acceptance, but it will help you to improve your team’s morale, keep valuable talent, and reduce sickness absence.

To help you develop positive workplace wellbeing, we have listed several ‘dos and don’ts’ when helping employees through the menopause:

Do

Educate yourself: Gain a greater understanding of menopause by doing some research on the subject. By becoming more knowledgeable on the issue, you may find that you will become more approachable.

Build relationships: Asking your team members how they are feeling and conducting regular ‘check-ins’ can provide them with an appropriate platform for them to voice their concerns.

Reasonable adjustments: Making reasonable adjustments for those suffering from menopausal symptoms can do wonders for employee morale. For example, altering their working hours.

Don’t

Make assumptions: Every person in your team is different - so treat them as individuals.

Be embarrassed: Raising a health issue to a manager can be an anxiety-inducing experience - especially if the senior staff member is the opposite sex. Approach conversations with empathy, and try not to be embarrassed by the issue.

Offer medical advice: Provide a compassionate ear if a health issue is raised, but avoid diagnosing the issue yourself.

Get support with employee wellbeing with Health Assured

Life is full of challenges, and the menopause is certainly one of them. By having a safe workplace where these issues can be discussed, employee wellbeing will thrive. This will allow you to support employees and retain your best staff members.

Create a healthy work environment and engage your team members by setting an example. One way you can do this is by having an Employee Assistance Programme, which improves wellbeing. Our EAP also comes with a wellbeing app, which employees can use whenever to access wellbeing resources.

References

¹ NHS. 2018. Menopause. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/> [Accessed 23 September 2021].

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