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If anyone was in any doubt about the scale of the impact of the menopause at work, this would have been dispelled by the landmark survey published by the Fawcett Society in May 2022: Menopause and the workplace. The survey sought the views of over 4000 women aged between 45 and 55. Key findings were as follows.
77% of women experience one or more symptoms they describe as ‘very difficult’. 69% say they experience difficulties with anxiety or depression due to menopause, 84% experience trouble sleeping and 73% experience brain fog.
44% said their ability to work had been affected by the menopause (comprising 18% of women who said that their symptoms currently affected their ability to do their jobs, and 26% in the past). 61% said that they had lost motivation at work due to their symptoms, and 52% said they had lost confidence.
One in ten women who have been employed during the menopause have left work due to menopause symptoms. Mapped on to the UK population that would represent an estimated 333,000 women leaving their jobs due to the menopause. 14% of women had reduced their hours at work, 14% had gone part-time, and 8% had not applied for promotion.
The impact of the menopause on working women has been identified as an area of concern for the government’s Women and Equalities Committee, which established an inquiry into Menopause and the Workplace. The inquiry has now closed and its findings are awaited. But research commissioned as part of the inquiry found that the top three most common symptoms were:
difficulty sleeping (81%)
problems with memory and/or concentration (75%)
hot flushes (72%).
Most respondents reported that these symptoms affected them at work, reporting a loss of ability to concentrate, increased stress and a loss of confidence. Other common symptoms include headaches, joint pain, muscle aches, depression and anxiety.
A 2021 survey of 2000 employees by Benenden Health found that a quarter of women with serious menopause symptoms have left their jobs. And a 2021 survey by Vodafone found that 30% of women experiencing the menopause hide their symptoms at work and another survey, commissioned by Koru Kids in 2022 found that 73% of women surveyed did not feel able to talk openly about their symptoms with colleagues.
The statistics clearly show why this is a workforce issue which can no longer sit on the side-lines. The biggest increases in employment rates over the last 30 years have been for women over 50 and there are almost five million women over 50 in work.
By 2025, there will be an estimated one million more people 50 and over and 300,000 fewer people aged 30 and under in the workplace. One in three of the working age population will be 50 or over. Retaining older workers will be key to meeting future demand for staff and also retaining crucial knowledge and skills within organisations.
And whilst some women sail through the menopause without any difficulty, for many the symptoms can be debilitating. And this can cause a negative impact at work, at a time when many women are reaching the peak of their skills, experience and contribution to the economy.
Given the current staffing pressures experienced by most businesses, and the cost of staff turnover, few employers can afford to lose staff because of menopause symptoms. This analysis is backed up by further results of the Women's Health Strategy call for evidence, in April 2022. The results refer to menopause policies and awareness. Organisations and experts noted that good menopause care from employers, including not just specific menopause policies but also the creation of an atmosphere which tackles taboos and stigmas and raises awareness of the menopause, would lead to increased retention and productivity as well as decreased absenteeism in the workforce.
Taking into account the information outlined above, it is clear that menopause is a critical issue for employers and their staff, but what should employers do to address those issues?
At TLT, we would always recommend putting in place a menopause policy as a good place to start. It is recommended in Acas advice on menopause and work. It shows that you have considered how the menopause may impact on your staff, helps employees to understand the issues and ensures that staff understand how to access support; whether for themselves or for someone in their team. And having a policy shows that your organisation is a ‘safe space’ for people experiencing the menopause and works towards de-stigmatisation.
What should you include in your menopause policy? We set out some recommendations below.
Statement of the purpose of the policy.
Confirmation that any data processed about the health of staff will be processed in line with the employer’s Data Protection Policy and the Data Protection Act 2018.
Details of how often the policy will be reviewed and who is responsible for the policy – the Board of Directors, HR, Equalities Committee?
A brief explanation of what the menopause means for people who are transitioning through this stage of life, including some of the common symptoms.
Statement of support for open conversations and signposting employees to sources of information and support. The Government Equalities Office has flagged that women experiencing menopause can be reluctant to discuss menopause issues with managers, especially if the line manager is male. Therefore, a secondary point of contact, such as an HR Manager or trained Menopause Champion may be a good idea.
Confirmation that menopause symptoms will be included in risk assessments.
A non-exhaustive list of support and adjustments which may be available for staff transitioning through menopause and details of how to access the same. Confirmation that staff may be referred to a doctor or Occupational Health advisor if more information about adjustments / support is required.
Signposting to other sources of support – for example, any Employee Assistance Programme, or any other initiatives (such as the examples listed above).
Cross-referencing to any other existing policies and procedures which may be relevant, such as policies on the prevention of bullying and harassment, and / or dignity at work / equalities policies and absence policies.
No – while it is an excellent start, it is only the beginning. Once the policy has been drafted, it must be publicised amongst your workforce and employees must know where / how to access the policy, plus any linked documents. And the ongoing job of management and HR will be to ensure that the written policy is actively supported and embedded in your organisation, with visible support from senior leadership.In future parts of this three-part series on the menopause at work, we will discuss further practical tips and ideas for ensuring that your workplace is ‘menopause friendly’.
This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at September 2022. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.
 Throughout this document we use the term ‘woman’ with reference to menopause but note that our comments apply equally to trans, intersex and non-binary people experiencing menopause symptoms.
01 September 2022