Menopause in the Workplace

(*Adapted with permission from Bev Thorogood, Floresco Traing and Consulting)

Did you know:

  • Women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing segment of the workforce
  • There are around 4.3 million women over 50 in work in the UK
  • Around half of all menopausal women in the workplace (aged 45-55) find it difficult to cope with work during the menopause
  • 70-80% of women of menopausal age are in work
  • Replacing a talented employee can cost in excess of £30

According to the Office for National Statistics there are currently more that 4.3 million women over the age of 50 in work, with 47% of the overall workforce taken up by women.  In fact, women over 50 are the fastest growing workplace demographic.

In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51, with menopause being classed as the date 12 consecutive months from a woman’s last menstrual period.  The expected age range for a woman to reach menopause is between 45 and 55, however it can occur much younger for some women.

The fact is: Many women are either choosing to work longer, into their 60s and sometime beyond, or feel they must work longer for financial reasons.  Whatever the reason, the workplace is clearly changing with more women increasingly working through their menopause transition.

Worryingly it is estimated that approximately 25% of women have considered leaving their job or finding alternative, part time work, because they didn’t feel they were being supported by their employer or did not feel they could disclose menopause as the reason for their problems.

The Potential Costs to Business

A report by Oxford Economics on the ACAS website suggested that the average cost to replace a lost employee in the UK (as of 2014) was £30k.   This cost doesn’t account for the loss of experience, skill, and knowledge that may be walking out of the door when a woman struggling to deal with her menopause decides she’s had enough.

In fact, it is extremely difficult to quantify exactly how much of a financial impact menopausal symptoms have on businesses as many women choose not to disclose menopause as the reason for their issues.  It would; however, be safe to conclude that a number of sickness days taken will be related to menopause symptoms and that those women who choose not to take time off work sick, may well be less productive in their job, creating issues related to presenteeism.

Culture

Studies have shown that where the organisational culture is open, inclusive, accepting and empathetic women are more likely to open up about their menopause issues.  This in turn enables help and support to be provided as necessary.

Conversely where women felt they would be judged, treated differently or discriminated against, they were more likely to remain quiet about their issues or leave their job.

Managers need to be vigilant to both conscious and unconscious bias and have the moral courage to challenge inappropriate behaviour, including unwanted comments, unfair treatment, bullying etc promptly and decisively.

Training

Training for managers as part of diversity and inclusion training that specifically includes the menopause can help to develop the kind of culture described above.

Surveys suggest that what women want from their manager as they transition through menopause is someone who will listen without judgement and who has a good awareness of the symptoms of menopause and their potential impact on performance.

Training for colleagues helps to raise awareness so that everyone understands the potential impact faced by some women as they go through their menopause transition.  It can help to normalise the conversation around menopause, break down barriers and address any misconceptions.

Training for everyone can help address the unconscious bias issues mentioned earlier.

Training should include what menopause is, the symptoms and their impact.  It should also include how managers can help through both emotional and practical support including understanding what might constitute reasonable workplace adjustment.

Managers should be given help and guidance on signposting as well as details of resources to help them manage effectively.

Specialist Provision

Women should be given confidential access to Occupational Health services without the need to go through their manager for a referral.  Employee Assistance Programmes and Counselling Services should include menopause provision and again be accessible directly without the need for referral.

Menopause Champions embedded within the organisations are an idea worth considering as they can offer women an alternative avenue to seek help and support if they do not wish to speak directly to their manager.

Organisations may also wish to bring in other health and wellness professionals to help with lifestyle factors such as nutrition, exercise, stress management, mindfulness or other complementary practices.

Policy

Organisations should include menopause provision in policies relating to health and wellbeing, absence management, performance management, working patterns, induction processes and mandatory training.

Policies should consider the impact of environmental factors on menopause symptoms as well as clothing and uniform policies, facilities and access to equipment such as fans and technology tools.

In summary, there is an awful lot to consider with regard to menopause in the workplace. While there are a variety of resources out there on the subject, the Healthy Workplace service is collecting sample policies on menopause in the workplace for our website and looking to have a speaker on the subject at a future Network meeting.

If you would like more information or to discuss menopause policies and resources for the workplace then point your browser to Healthy Workplaces – In Partnership with Everyone Health (healthyworkplacescp.co.uk) or contact us at HealthyWorkplace@everyonehealth.co.uk for any questions or a chat.

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