Earlier this month, the Fawcett Society, sponsored by The Wates Group published what is believed to be the largest ever survey in the UK of menopausal women entitled, ‘Menopause and the Workplace.’

The results of the survey were alarming:

  • One in ten women who have worked during the menopause have left their job due to their symptoms.

  • Eight out of ten women said their employer had not shared information, trained staff, or put in place a menopause absence policy.

  • 44% of women said their ability to work had been affected by menopause, with 61% of those saying their symptoms have resulted in a loss of motivation, and 52% saying they had lost their confidence.

With people over 50 making up nearly one third of the working age population, this must become a matter of priority for UK employers if they are to attract and retain valuable female talent.

Fawcett recommendations

The Fawcett report has called for increased legal protection under UK equality laws. One suggestion has been the creation of a standalone menopause provision. To date, we have seen women successfully take menopause related claims in the Employment Tribunals under existing anti-discrimination provisions covering age, sex and disability. However, Fawcett considers it is insufficient with menopause falling “in the cracks between” those existing protected characteristics.

Other recommendations include the introduction of mandatory action plans on menopause as part of gender pay gap reporting requirements, and flexible working as a default position for all jobs where this is a possibility.

In Great Britain, where there is a mandatory gender pay gap (GPG) reporting regime for employers, there is currently no legal requirement to also publish an action plan to eliminate any GPG, but Fawcett considers that the creation of a plan to take “well-evidenced, low-cost actions to support women with menopause” is key to closing it.[1]

Workplace menopause policies

The creation of a workplace menopause policy is an important means of showing employer commitment to tackling the challenges menopause can create for ageing female employees, and promoting a corporate culture that supports and empowers women going through the menopause to discuss their physical and mental symptoms at work. When devising a menopause policy, employers should consider: 

  • Training line managers and HR teams to notice the signs of menopause and handle any conversations sensitively. Organisations may benefit from investing in training for employees to become menopause champions.

  • Gender specific risk assessments to help inform small practical adjustments that will promote the health, safety and well-being (physical and mental) of an employee going through menopause. This may include things like providing a desk fan, or easy access to cold drinking water to alleviate someone’s symptoms.

  • Signposting employees to sources of internal and external support such as a support helpline or access to GP advice. Employers may wish to consider bringing in external professionals and charities to help raise menopause awareness.

  • Making adjustments to existing workplace policies and procedures – for example a dress code policy may be challenging for someone experiencing menopause symptoms, and allowing more flexibility on clothing could make a big difference to their comfort in work. The strict application of procedures to address poor performance or sickness absence could adversely impact employees experiencing symptoms such as anxiety and depression, brain fog and/or memory loss. Adjustments to workload, deadlines or absence management triggers could address the impact.

Conclusion

The increased focus on tackling the effects of menopause in the workplace is to be welcomed. Increased discussion, including at government level, about positive employment strategies and the implementation of policies to support menopausal females can only help to remove the long existing stigma of the subject, provide the necessary practical adjustments for impacted employees, and prevent the loss of valuable female talent from the labour market.

This article was first published in the Business Eye. 

[1] There is legal provision for gender pay gap reporting in Northern Ireland under section 19 of the Employment Act (Northern Ireland) 2016. However, enabling regulations have not since followed to detail how GPG reporting will operate in practice for NI employers.

Written by

Leeanne Armstrong

Leeanne Armstrong

Date published

21 June 2022

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