Written by Heidi Wadsworth | 8th July 2022
More and more employers are raising awareness of menopause as an issue that can affect staff wellbeing – and not before time.
Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the UK workforce, a reason why over 600 employers have signed the Menopause Workplace pledge – a commitment to recognising the impact of menopause and actively supporting those who are affected.
It’s important to remember that menopause can also affect transgender men, gender fluid and non-binary employees.
Why it is important to support employees affected by menopause
Some people are lucky and sail through menopause, but for a quarter of those affected, the reality is debilitating symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and increased anxiety. For some, this can even force them out of the workplace completely.
What employers can do is create an environment where people can talk about menopause openly and without embarrassment.
Offering more support can help prevent someone from losing confidence in their job role, having increased mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression or leaving their job all together. This means losing valuable employees whose experience is key to their teams.
Here are some of the ways you can support your people…
Develop a menopause policy
A menopause policy is something managers can refer to, to help them support their teams.
It would start by explaining what the menopause is and when it is likely to happen.
It should also acknowledge symptoms your employees may be facing and help everyone understand what support is available to women affected by the menopause.
A policy needs to explain what training on menopause is provided, who the person of contact is for queries and support and include your business commitment to prevent discrimination.
Details of your menopause policy also need to go in your employee handbook.
Every manager should know what the menopause is, when it happens and its effects. They also need to be trained to talk and listen sensitively and know what support and guidance the business can offer.
Remember that managers might also need support, so they feel comfortable having these conversations with their teams.
Check the working environment
It’s your duty as an employer to look after the health and safety of your teams, wherever they are working, so it’s a good idea to make sure that menopause symptoms are not made worse by the workplace.
To do this you could carry out a health and safety risk assessment, which might include the temperature and ventilation of the workplace, the material and fit of the uniform (if there is one), whether toilet facilities are easily accessible and whether managers have been trained on health and safety issues relating to the menopause.
Also consider how an employee’s job role could make menopause symptoms harder to deal with – do they work long shifts, or not have much flexibility?
Make reasonable adjustments
Symptoms of menopause can be experienced for as long as 15 years, and ‘early menopause’ is used to describe menopause that happens before the age of 45. Perimenopause – the transition into menopause – can start as early as in your 30’s, and many women experience menopause symptoms.
Any communication with your teams should be handled sensitively – because no two experiences are the same.
Be prepared to make changes to help affected employees continue to work. You might want to introduce temperature-controlled areas, desk fans, flexible working adjustments, breaks for severe symptoms or allow time to attend medical appointments.
If an employee takes sick leave, it’s good practice to keep these absences recorded separate from other absences. If someone is treated less favourably because of their symptoms, for example their sick leave is measured as part of their overall attendance record, this could be seen as discriminatory.
Have menopause champions
Just like you might have wellbeing champions or ambassadors to be a sounding board or offer advice to your employees, menopause champions can act as a point of contact for employees if they don’t feel comfortable talking to their managers.
Champions could also help you to improve awareness of the menopause across the business by running workshops or training sessions. They can monitor health and safety risk assessments, set up a support network and keep up communication with newsletters and emails.
Above all, open cultures need to be created where women feel comfortable to say they are struggling with symptoms.
Line managers need to be able to signpost their team to services that may help them and understand what help and support these are able to give.
You could invest in services such as a virtual GP or signpost a mental health helpline. Employees can then access this any time, from anywhere. Bupa Health Clinics has recently launched Menopause Plan, a service that gives women access to a specialist GP and this service is available to businesses.
Whether you decide to create a menopause policy or not, you should make some allowances when supporting employees because everyone’s experience will be different.
Don’t forget to review your current health, safety and wellbeing policies to make sure they cover any links with the menopause. This might include diversity and inclusion policies, flexible working policies and absence management policies.
If you have any questions about how to support your employees going through menopause or any legislation related to it, get in touch with our team at [email protected].