New research reveals the extent to which the menopause has a negative effect on women in work. The good news is that some employers are leading the way in breaking down taboos to create menopause-friendly workplaces. Here’s how...
Three out of five (59%) working women between the ages of 45 and 55, who are dealing with menopause symptoms, say that it has a negative impact on them at work, according to new research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
That’s certainly something that many of our Live Better With Community Forum and Facebook members have experienced. We’re taking a look at the CIPD’s research and recommendations and spotlighting employers who are in the forefront of pioneering menopause in the workplace schemes. These are designed, first, to help female staff who are going through menopause and, second, to ensure that staff and managers of all ages have a better understanding of how menopause can affect women at work.
How menopause affects women at work
The CIPD’s research showed that:
- almost two-thirds (65%) of the women surveyed found it more difficult to concentrate
- over half (58%) felt more stressed
- over half (52%) were less patient with clients and colleagues.
Thirty per cent of the women surveyed had taken sick leave because of menopause symptoms but only a minority of them had been able to tell their manager the reason why. For some, this was due to lack of privacy, or embarrassment at explaining why they had taken time off, while others said that they had an unsupportive manager. And most of the women said they felt more supported by their colleagues than by their managers.
Those findings will definitely resonate for Live Better With members...
‘In IT surrounded by younger males and older male senior management. Director is a younger woman. No understanding expected or given. Female peers of any age are more supportive.’ Community Forum member
Why making the workplace more menopause friendly makes sense
There are more than four and a half million women aged 50-64 in work in the UK and, if our members are typical of this age group – and we think they are – they want to perform well at work, whatever type of work they do. So it makes sound organisational, business, and economic sense for employers to do what they can to support their women staff.
The Equality Act also makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against women who are trying to cope with menopausal symptoms at work.
What can employers do to support women going through menopause?
The CIPD has some excellent online resources for managing the menopause at work and is encouraging employers to: ‘ . . .create a culture where everyone can talk about health issues, such as the menopause . . .’ Breaking down the taboos, says the institute, will enable women ‘to feel more confident about asking for the support they need to be more effective in their role.’
The CIPD also recommends some simple but helpful steps that employers can take to support women staff by offering:
- a later start time if her sleep pattern is disturbed
- a desk fan to help with hot flushes
- regular comfort breaks
and allowing women who have to wear a uniform to adapt it so that they can be more comfortable at work.
Managing the menopause at work – employers who are leading the way
‘I think there are lots of changes that need to be made, and all of them involve communication. We, as women, need to talk about what’s happening to us. Employers need to listen. . . Everyone, women included, need to have more information available to them to enable conversations to happen. . . Employers need to be more proactive when it comes to dealing with women who want to continue working effectively with the menopause. The symptoms of menopause are often unrecognised, undervalued and just not taken seriously, and given that some women can have symptoms for ten years plus, things need to be put in place to make our working lives easier.’ Community Forum member
M&S has more than 80,000 staff, the majority of whom are women. It has been in the forefront of developing programmes and work options to support and encourage female staff, in terms of career progression and wellbeing. In 2013, the company introduced a ‘Manage Your Menopause’ micro-site within its main wellbeing website, with videos and tips, which has proved very popular.
The wellbeing portal also gives line managers information on supporting female staff through menopause and offers a referral to the company’s occupational health team, who can put adjustments in place to make coping with menopause at work that much easier.
E.ON was proud to be the UK’s first menopause-friendly energy company. When the programme was launched in 2017, E.ON’s HR director, Dave Newborough, said that the company aims: ‘to raise awareness about the menopause by providing clear information and guidance for all line managers and their employees and by encouraging all colleagues to talk openly about this natural phase in a woman’s life.’
E.ON worked closed with Henpicked, a social network for women over 40, to develop the policy, drawing on Henpicked’s experience and knowledge of women’s issues, specifically the menopause.
In the Midlands, the University of Leicester has undergone what it describes as ‘a dramatic culture change’ by encouraging staff across campus to discuss menopause issues. Its pioneering research has led to Leicester becoming the first university in the UK to have a formal workplace menopause policy. Its campus-based campaign has been highly successful in involving men, as well as women, in the discussion and an academic team from the university’s School of Business run monthly menopause cafes, where staff can discuss menopause topics openly in a supportive atmosphere.
The university is now working with other organisations and employers such as the NHS, TUC Education, ACAS, West Midlands Police and Henpicked’s menopause in the workplace experts, with the aim of breaking down the taboos around menopause and creating more menopause-friendly workplaces.
Other employers who have menopause support networks in place include Severn Trent Water, BAE Systems, and many UK police forces.
Is your workplace menopause-friendly?
‘I'm having major brain fog today. Trying to be professional at work but making so many mistakes. What do you all take to help this and does it work?’ Community Forum member
If your employer has introduced practical and supportive measures to help staff going through menopause, we’d love to hear from you. You can leave a comment in the box at the end of this blog post, or share information on our Community Forum (Menopause at Work category) or Facebook group. And if you managing your menopause at work is a constant challenge, you’ll find plenty of support, reassurance, advice and tips there too.
Recent menopause at work discussions on our Community Forum have included dealing with brain fog, anxiety and depression, sweating and hot flushes, and how to discuss menopause issues with HR staff and representatives.