Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Guest Blog: Supporting Menopause in the Workplace

Menopause is a key life stage.  It can impact a woman’s career in a similar way to other health or life stage related issues and has the potential to de-rail career or organisational plans. It’s an issue that will be faced directly by around 50% of the workforce, so more organisations are recognising the importance and value of providing additional support and guidance in the workplace.  Training, coaching and other support can allow women to successfully navigate this transition and enable organisations to prosper.

The UK is an ageing population - with around 1 in 3 employees aged over 50 and around half of all workers women it is clear to see that the issue is becoming ever more prevalent.  Many women are reluctant to talk to their line managers about menopause yet often struggle to be at their best as a result of symptoms. Menopausal symptoms can have a direct result on absenteeism – and a knock on effect to productivity.

It doesn’t need to be that way.

Talking about menopause openly, raising awareness and education means that an employer can improve the working environment for menopausal women, and also reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and increase retention of valuable, experienced employees.

Working Transitions and Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace work in collaboration to support women, their colleagues and their line managers to thrive through menopause.  They answered the following questions:

Why should menopause be of interest to employers/organisations?

Leaders and line managers have told us that they don’t understand enough about menopause to be able to spot the symptoms, have good conversations and give the right support. Demystifying the subject for line managers allows them to get their heads around how to address the conversation - putting a structured framework around the conversation makes it much easier.  It’s important for line managers to appreciate that they don’t have to be the GP – they should not try to give medical advice.  Being able to talk about it is such a relief for women - normalising symptoms can be so important- being open makes it much easier and make work life comfortable. 
If that’s not enough, the risk of a successful tribunal against you for missing menopausal symptoms leading to disciplinary or any type of discrimination is increased for two reasons. General awareness of menopause symptoms is being raised and leading organisations are already taking action
Menopause is covered by the law - age, sex and disability discrimination towards workers are prohibited under the Equality Act 2010. Are you sure your line managers and colleagues would know the symptoms and take the appropriate action?

What symptoms can impact on workplace performance?

Henpicked: Most people will be familiar with hot flushes but actually, the ranges of menopausal symptoms are far more wide-ranging. Every woman is different, both in terms of what her symptoms are and also the severity, but three out of four will experience symptoms and one in four will experience symptoms which can be classed as serious. Many women will not have even consulted a doctor or understand the ways in which symptoms can be managed.

The impact on performance at work largely depends on the sort of job a woman is doing. Physical symptoms in addition to ‘temperature control’ include lack of sleep, general fatigue, aches and pains and frequent urinary tract infections.

Psychological problems may include ‘brain fog’, feeling forgetful, lack of confidence, anxiety and irritability.  In some instances, women have told us that they feared early onset dementia, others find that they are continually checking their work, fearful that they’ve forgotten something or done it wrong.  Not speaking up or participating fully in meetings due to lack of confidence is another concern.

What are the benefits of supporting menopausal women in the workplace?

When women realise that what they are experiencing are the symptoms of menopause, often there is an initial feeling of relief.  There are ways to manage symptoms and women are very grateful to their employers for the education and support.

Equipping leaders and line managers good conversations ensures they are able to provide the necessary support – both to the woman and the wider team.

For any organisation, it helps reduce the cost of unnecessary absence, cost of replacing women leaving the business and creates or supports a culture where employee wellbeing is valued.  And of course, it reduces the risk of negative PR and costs of tribunals.

How can you de-mystify the stigma of menopause in the workplace?

The first thing to do is start the conversation. Menopause should not be a taboo subject or driven underground. Our experience is that as soon as you start the conversation you’ll be surprised at how much colleagues do want to talk about it.

To find out more contact Working Transitions on 01604 744101, or visit their website:

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