How to become a ‘menopause friendly’ employer
Last month, Sir Lindsay Hoyle signed a pledge vowing to make the House of Commons “menopause friendly” for staff.
Possible adjustments include well-ventilated rooms and fans, flexible working and breathable uniforms. The Commons Speaker said he wants to create a culture of openness and “break the taboo” around the subject.
The announcement comes after the largest survey of menopausal women in the UK last month showed that 80% of respondents said their employer hasn’t shared information, trained staff, or put in place a menopause absence policy.
What’s the Menopause Workplace Pledge?
The Menopause Workplace Pledge, launched by the Wellbeing of Women charity, has been signed by more than 600 organisations including the civil service, Tesco’s and John Lewis.
It commits employers to supporting employees who are going through the menopause, providing practical adjustments and talking openly, positively and respectfully about the subject.
Sir Lindsay has said he hopes making small adjustments could make life easier for those working in Parliament. This could include holding menopause awareness events and allowing staff to request breathable uniforms. Other measures include offering advice from on-site clinical nurses and occupational health teams, time off for menopause-related appointments and training for managers.
Symptoms of the menopause
There are around a hundred different symptoms associated with the menopause and whilst some only get mild symptoms, others get more severe symptoms.
The most common symptoms are hot flushes, mood swings, night sweats, loss of memory, irritability, tearfulness, brain fog, thinning hair, confusion, anxiety or panic attacks.
One in 10 women have quit their job because of menopause symptoms
People over 50 now make up almost a third of the working age population, up from a quarter 25 years ago. The Menopause and the Workplace report by the Fawcett Society and Channel 4, which polled 4,000 women aged 45-55, found that 10% had left their job because of symptoms of the menopause.
Mapped on to the UK population that would represent an estimated 333,000 women leaving their jobs due to the menopause. The survey also revealed 14% of women had reduced their hours at work, 14% had gone part-time, and 8% had not applied for promotion.
Do I need a menopause policy?
Our policy team are receiving an increasing number of requests for a menopause policy. However, it’s not feasible to produce such a policy as every company will deal with things in a different manner. It would be like having a policy on what to do if someone has arthritis and if you didn’t follow your policy to the letter for everyone, you could end up with a problem.
Supporting staff through the menopause
Employers can support menopausal women through:
- Sharing information about the menopause with staff
- Training or briefing sessions for managers
- Adapting absence policies
- Flexible working
- Environmental changes
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that you need to support anyone who has a major problem with their health, including menopausal women.
One thing that seems to be working well for those companies who have tried it, is to have group sessions on a monthly basis, maybe organised by the women themselves, but with an open invitation to anyone who may wish to join.
Secondly, you should be aware of the need to consider any reasonable adjustments which may be needed. For example, desk fans, access to a cold-water machine, a seat near a window, not questioning more frequent trips to the toilet etc.
A considerate and understanding manager makes a huge difference. Managers should be prepared to listen to anyone who wishes to share their symptoms.
Overall, if employees affected by menopause feel supported at work, it can help to increase employee retention, reduce recruitment costs, boost productivity, happiness and wellbeing, and create a more diverse workforce.