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A Menopause Friendly Workplace – Why It Matters?
In the past, discussing menopause was akin to tiptoeing around a taboo topic, but times are changing.
The increasing awareness and advocacy initiatives are gradually breaking down these barriers, encouraging more open dialogue and understanding about menopause-related issues in professional settings. Employers and employees alike are becoming more receptive to discussing menopause recognising its impact on the workplace and acknowledging the need for supportive policies and conversations. As October marks Menopause Awareness month, it’s an excellent time to take a closer look at what it truly means to be menopause friendly. And why does menopause matter in the workplace?
Menopause will affect individuals differently and there are three stages to the menopause:
The average age of menopause is between the ages of 45 and 55, but it can happen earlier. Symptoms usually last between four and eight years although they may persist for longer. All stages and types of menopause are different and symptoms will vary from person to person. Symptoms of menopause include both mental and physical symptoms. Common symptoms include changes in mood, low self-esteem, brain fog and concentration levels. They also include hot flushes, difficulty sleeping, headaches and migraines, a more details list of symptoms can be found on NHS.
Menopause and the workforce
The number of women who will experience menopause while in employment is increasing. Pre-pandemic research showed that women over the age of 50 were the fastest-growing group in the workforce. There are currently around 4.5 million women aged 50-64 in employment. Here are a few facts on menopause that highlight the scale of the issue:
- Menopausal women are the fastest-growing demographic in the workforce
- According to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, nearly 8 out of 10 menopausal women are in work.
- 3 out of 4 women experience symptoms, 1 in 4 could experience serious symptoms
- One in three of the workforce will soon be over 50, and the retirement age is currently 66
- One in four consider leaving their jobs because of their menopausal symptoms
- There have already been successful employment tribunals against employers
Experience of menopause symptoms often coincides with people reaching the peak of their careers and in senior positions. We’re also an ageing population, so organisations need to look after their ‘older’ workers to have the talent they need to run their business. Successful employment tribunals against employers could prove particularly important in the way employers respond to employees who suffer from menopausal symptoms.
What this means for organisations
Socially and legally, businesses are bound to safeguard their employees’ welfare. Ensuring inclusivity and equity isn’t just a moral stance; it’s a necessity. Retaining seasoned talent is paramount, and menopause-friendly policies play a vital role.
Employers can expect to do what any employer who wants to attract and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce to do. This starts with creating an environment that supports conversations about menopause openly and in a safe place without embarrassment. After all, menopause is a natural phase in affects most women and other people who have a menstrual cycle. Employers need to be aware of all the people who might go through menopause and menopause symptoms.
Short-term investments can prevent long-term issues. Although menopause and perimenopause are not specifically protected under the Equality Act, if employees are treated unfairly because of menopause or perimenopause, this may amount to discrimination. This can be on the grounds of, for example, because of sex and/or age and/or disability discrimination. There are inexpensive methods for employers to put in place to educate, support and raise awareness of menopause. This also supports holding onto talent which is much less expensive than recruiting and training new staff. Overall, there would be financial payback in:
- The cost of recruitment
- Cost of absence
- Cost of employee relations issues or tribunals. The average cost of defending a tribunal case is £8,500 excluding the cost of any awards or the claimant’s legal fees, if won.
Quick menopause-friendly adjustments
There are some inexpensive adjustments organisations can make that are menopause friendly. Providing desk fans and fresh cool water: By accommodating the needs of menopausal employees, you contribute to their well-being. Employees who feel supported and understood are more likely to remain focused and productive, positively impacting your business’s bottom line.
Some other quick adjustments your organisation can make to foster a menopause-friendly workplace are: relaxing dress codes/ uniforms and setting up a quiet space.
Regular breaks and Flexible working
Menopausal symptoms, especially sleep disturbances, can lead to increased absenteeism and presenteeism (being present at work but not fully functioning). By offering flexibility in work hours, remote working options, or understanding when an employee needs a day off, you help mitigate these issues, ensuring your workforce remains reliable and engaged.
Creating a menopause-friendly workplace
Creating a menopause-friendly workplace isn’t just about ticking boxes; it’s about fostering a compassionate, understanding, and productive work environment. As an employer and/or senior manager, you have the power to make a significant difference in the lives of your employees and colleagues. By acknowledging the challenges of menopause and implementing supportive policies, you invest not only in your staff but also in the success and longevity of your business. When your staff sees that their well-being is a priority, they’re more likely to be loyal, motivated, and dedicated to the success of your business. A supportive environment leads to higher retention rates, saving you the costs and time associated with recruitment and training.
Recognising and addressing menopause in the workplace is not just a choice; it’s a responsibility we all share. It’s a shame to see many talented women, experiencing menopausal or peri-menopausal symptoms, feeling forced to leave their jobs. Sadly, unconscious bias often results in inappropriate comments and so-called ‘banter’ concerning women and their menopausal experiences. It’s crucial to recognise that, understanding the experiences of your employees can make a world of difference. Taking this step is the beginning of offering meaningful support to women during what can feel like a challenging phase in their lives and careers. Providing well-being support and implementing reasonable adjustments at work can make a significant difference and help retain talent.
If you are considering or are already in the process of making your organisation menopause-friendly and require support or assistance, we can help you source an HRi accredited HR consultant to work with your business.