#YesSheCan Talks: Menopause Awareness In The Workplace
In this YesSheCan blog, we’re talking about the topic of menopause in the workplace. Last month (October) was Menopause Awareness Month, but as we always say at YSC, awareness doesn’t stop at the end of the month.
We will be talking about how workplace environments can be improved to help those going through menopause and the current statistics on the topic.
According to a Government Report, ‘pre-pandemic research showed that women over the age of 50 were the fastest growing group in the workforce’. This only amplifies the importance of making positive changes in the workplace.
Before we begin to talk about those changes, we’re going to give you a brief overlook of what menopause is.
What is menopause?
Menopause is experienced when hormone levels become low, and your period stops happening over a 12-month period.
It usually happens between the ages of 45 to 55 but can happen earlier.
Menopause is not to be confused with perimenopause, which are symptoms experienced before your period stops.
What about the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of menopause are hot flushes when you feel unbearably warm and you’re unable to cool down, headaches, disturbed sleep, anxiety, low mood, vaginal dryness, and lack of confidence.
Not everyone experiencing menopause will have the same symptoms.
Symptoms can last for months or years and the symptoms can change over time.
When someone is experiencing menopausal symptoms, it can be debilitating and can impact mobility, productivity, and mental health of the individual.
What current legislation supports those experiencing menopause?
If you are going through the menopause and working, you are protected under the Equality Act 2010 under the characteristics ‘sex’ and ‘age’. This means an employer cannot unfairly discriminate or treat you differently because of your situation.
Employers have a legal requirement to ensure their employees’ health, safety and welfare at work under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Many companies and organisations create and publish their own policies on menopause and what they do to create awareness – but we know that’s the case for everyone.
“One in ten women have left their job due to their menopause symptoms.”
The main reason why women don’t openly express that they are experiencing menopause or mention it at work to their peers or managers is the negative perception surrounding it.
So, when women feel like they can’t adapt their current symptoms and situation to their career or openly talk about it, they leave. One in ten women have left their job due to their menopause symptoms.
‘Banter’ and jokes are a big catalyst to the negative perception around the menopause leading to women not talking. 56% of women said that menopause had been treated like a joke in their workplace.
Opening the conversation
So, let’s start talking about the importance of openly, honestly and without judgement discussing menopause in the workplace.
This doesn’t mean it has to be mentioned every day or in every conversation, but everyone should be aware of what menopause is, how it affects individuals and how the workplace can be adjusted to help women.
It also doesn’t mean peers and those in managerial roles need to be experts on menopause or even have lived experiences with it.
It’s all about – discussions, training, and awareness!
Share information on menopause via internal newsletters, intranets, support groups and in regular training sessions.
Introduce training sessions for all employees on menopause so everyone can learn, understand, and empathise.
Training sessions for only managers can be beneficial as other topics such as flexible work and time off can be focused on.
Create a policy which covers the workplace commitment to working with those experiencing menopause and supporting them with reasonable time off and rest.
Be proactive and build on current policies – don’t stop! Keep discussions going throughout the year and improve how menopause is talked about.
Step in when you see someone struggling and support them where possible.
Consider flexible working including remote working, moving around meetings and allowing regular breaks.
Be empathetic – do dress codes need to change to alleviate symptoms? Are there appropriate rest breaks and areas where people can go to?
All of these suggestions go hand in hand and might not necessarily happen all at once. Once you open the conversation and break the taboo and normalise menopause, then employers, peers and managers alike will understand each one better.
“Happiness is the new rich. Peace is the new success. Health is the new wealth. Kindness is the new cool.”