It is not an illness nor a medical condition but a natural stage of life all women will experience yet, menopause remains a considerably taboo subject in the workplace. This is due to not only a lack of understanding around menopause but a notable lack of support from employers wherein women do not feel encouraged to confide in their employers regarding their menopause. With women making 46.5% of the UK’s workforce (2018) and, inevitably, will either face or are currently dealing with menopause, it is imperative that employers are aware how to approach this sensitive issue that affects almost half of their employees.
Menopause is marked by changes in the hormones and the ending of menstruation. During the period before menopause, these changes lead to menstrual irregularities. Women undergo a number of symptoms during this period, of which length can vary, such as hot flushes, palpitations, night sweats, sleep disturbance, fatigue, poor concentration, irritability, mood disturbance, skin irritation and dryness. Menopause therefore does not only affect women physically but mentally and emotionally.
Whilst all women experience menopause, it affects them at different times, for some as early as their 30s, and in different ways. Some women go through menopause with minimal impact on their daily lives whereas other women can experience long-term symptoms that can negatively impact their lives including their performance and attendance at work. It is therefore imperative that employers approach menopause pragmatically and understand that in approaching the topic, any issues should be dealt with in a manner tailored to the individual employee involved.
Employers have a responsibility for the health, safety and wellbeing of all their employees and menopause is no exception. Menopause should be highlighted as part of a wider occupational health awareness campaign in the workplace to assure staff that the employer has a positive attitude regarding menopause and that it is willing to listen and accommodate for women experiencing it.
Various ways employers can aid women experiencing menopause is:
- Have a clear understanding of menopause and its symptoms before engaging in a discussion with any woman on the matter but do not assume all women experience all of these symptoms – remember, menopause impacts women differently and is a very personal experience. Training and guidance can be provided to management and staff to ensure an understanding regarding the menopausal experience is clear and unfettered by myths.
- Consider what reasonable adjustments can be made for women undergoing menopause in the workplace, for example, providing easy access to fans and/or temperature control for women experiencing hot flushes.
- Review current HR policies that could provide support for menopausal women and consider whether adjustments need made.
- Clarify to female employees that if they have any concerns or issues that need addressed that they can talk about them with you – what is most important is creating an open and honest environment within the workplace where staff are comfortable to approach management regarding sensitive topics. Women should not have to hide their menopausal experience out of embarrassment.
For further information, Think People are hosting a seminar “Managing Sensitive Issues in the Workplace” on 30th May 2019 at our offices. During this seminar, other sensitive issues beyond menopause shall be explored such as mental health and LQBTQ+. For further information, please contact the office or alternatively view our website.
By Anne Dougan
Think People Consulting