Three out of five working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work, yet only around 10% of companies in the UK have an agreed and published menopause support policy.
Today, on World Menopause Day, Menopause Coach and Women’s Health Expert Sarah Cox explains why it is so important to raise awareness about the menopause and highlights how companies can better support their employees.
With it being World Menopause Day today, there has never been a better time to talk about menopause and how companies can support the 51% of the population who will be going through it at some point.
What is menopause?
Menopause is the exact opposite to puberty and technically only lasts 1 day. Yes, that’s right, officially it is the day 12 months after a woman’s last period, with the average age of that transition being 51.
Perimenopause is the time leading up to this point that can begin for some in their mid-30’s (and for others it can start even earlier due to surgical or medical reasons). The average age for perimenopause to start is in our mid 40’s.
Who does it affect?
Well, that’s the thing – 51% of people (anyone with ovaries!) WILL go through menopause, but the other 49% of the population are indirectly impacted, whether that be partner, family, friend or work colleague. This is why it is so important for us to talk about it openly and supportively.
What are the common symptoms?
They are different for everyone but common symptoms include:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
- Difficulty sleeping
In fact, there are anywhere up to 70 symptoms to be aware of and these can make normal daily tasks feel overwhelming and performance and productivity plummet.
Why should Companies support people going through it?
Let’s start with the hard facts:
- Women over 50 are the fastest growing segment of the workforce.
- 80% of menopausal people are in the workplace.
- 6 in 10 menopausal women say it has had a negative impact on their work.
- 1 in 5 women have left a job because of it.
- 1 in 5 take time off to deal with menopausal symptoms.
- 1 in 50 are on long term sick leave because of menopause symptoms.
- It is costing companies literally billions a year in lost hours and recruitment, and most don’t even realise it!
If you’re still not persuaded to take action, let’s look at the legal aspect. Menopausal employees are realising more and more that they are being discriminated against, and are taking action. Employment tribunals citing the menopause rose 44 per cent last year compared to the previous year. Although menopause is not a specific protected characteristic, there are two acts that this can fall under: The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) which requires all employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all workers and The Equality Act (2010) which prohibits discrimination against people with protected characteristics, including sex and age.
There is also the ethical responsibility for every company to make sure their employees are safe, supported and feel valued. If you aren’t talking about and supporting menopause in the workplace you are not giving that safe space for employees to thrive in.
What can companies do to support employees going through Menopause?
The good news is there is a lot of simple things that can be done by companies to help out and support. Let’s look at symptoms and solutions.
- Have a temperature-controlled work environment or desk fan available.
- Ensure there is easy access to cold drinking water.
- Look at allowing a more relaxed dress code to accommodate it.
- Review company uniform material to make sure it doesn’t perpetuate the problem.
- Consider flexible working options.
- Make sure employees are not working late out of hours so they relax before bed.
- Accessibility to clean toilets.
- Availability of sanitary products.
- Have quiet spaces or headphones for open offices.
- Ensure focus time without distractions.
- Train all managers to recognise the symptoms.
- Listen and have open conversations.
- Are people struggling? Review workloads and if they need to be adjusted.
- Allow and encourage regular breaks away from desks.
- Have an area where people can relax.
Most importantly just talk about it and don’t ignore it, have signposting around the building, in newsletters and in emails from a menopause champion. Regularly share self-help ideas as there is a lot the individual can be doing for themselves too around health & diet, exercise, sleep, mindfulness, HRT and alternate therapies.
There are lots of options available we just need to talk about it…
Sarah Cox is a Menopause Coach and Women’s Health Expert who specialises in helping companies understand what menopause is and what they can do to help and support their employees. She was a shareholding director in the Aviation industry but left that job in 2021 partly due to her own experience of menopause in the workplace. Sarah has since set up her own company and from her own lived experience and becoming a CPD certified Menopause Coach she now help others.