Organisations are breaking the taboos to talk, listen and understand more about menopause
Look back ten years and you would be hard pushed to find menopause mentioned anywhere within an organisation. Even five years ago, the subject was still something of a taboo.
Thankfully this is changing, and changing fast. A report published for the Government Equalities Office in 2017, Menopause Transition: effects on women’s economic participation, highlighted the essential, urgent need for employers to put the right support in place.
Why do we need menopause support in the workplace?
For many compelling reasons. Midlife women in the UK are the fastest-growing workplace demographic. And while the average menopause age is 51, symptoms can appear years before that. These symptoms can be physical, such as hot flushes, fatigue or trouble sleeping, or psychological, such as anxiety or problems with recall. Symptoms which can’t be switched off just because you’re at work.
To recruit and retain experienced, talented employees, it’s important that employers recognise this. One in four women consider leaving their jobs due to menopause symptoms – a statistic that shouts loudly about why we need workplace support.
Anyone can be affected by menopause. While half of us experience it first-hand, others do through their relationships with partners, family members, friends or colleagues. It’s important for everyone to understand a life skill in or outside work.
How can employers offer support?
In a number of ways. One of the biggest is in getting rid once and for all of any lingering reluctance to discuss menopause. Education, information and understanding are key, taking the subject from behind closed doors out into the workplace. Organisations can also offer reasonable adjustments.
These are usually small and easy to implement, like a desk fan or an extra uniform. For some just being able to talk about it is a relief. At Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace, we have worked with hundreds of organisations and busting some of the ‘menopause myths’ has been a key part of our training.
Things like ‘menopause is a women’s issue’, or ‘it only happens at a certain age’ and ‘it’s just something you have to put up with’ – without realising how much can be done to support anyone struggling. Moving away from these into the real world, many employers are getting to grips with the realities of menopause.
And if organisations need any further reason to introduce support – menopause is covered under the protected areas of sex, disability and age in the Equality Act 2010. There have already been successful tribunals brought by employees. Food for thought for employers and line managers too.
Where are we now?
Thankfully, we are in a much better place than five years ago. Famous names such as Davina McCall, Mariella Frostrup and Michelle Obama have talked openly about their own experiences – which can often be a rallying call to others.
Now leading organisations such as HSBC UK, ATOS, countless NHS Trusts, Next and Sainsbury’s – among many, many others – have brought in awareness, training, policies and guidance – a whole portfolio of support. Some employers are now offering consultations with menopause experts for colleagues.
Where are we heading?
Menopause support is growing fast. Increasingly, employers are seeing menopause as an issue which sits in their wellbeing strategy, and in their equality, diversity and inclusion strategy too. Menopause is being recognised as an all-encompassing topic that is shooting up priority lists. We are now seeing the first employers accredited as Menopause Friendly, and this is also being included in job adverts.
This is recognition for those who have not only put their colleagues at the forefront of their wellbeing agendas and are inspiring others to do the same. And it’s about time. Menopause is having an impact on people at work now; it’s not something we’re planning for in the future. Organisations can no longer ignore it. How menopause friendly is your employer?
Image by Karolina Grabowska, Pexels
Enjoyed this article? Read more: How to design menopause-friendly workplaces