Understand how employers can support women through menopause with adjustments, training, champions, and adaptable workplaces.
By Making Moves LondonOctober 2, 2023
In recognition of World Menopause Month our Director of Operations, Sally Evans, sheds light on the present support landscape and offers guidance for employers aiming to assist their staff.
The menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life, marking the end of menstrual cycles. Yet, perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms — which can include hot flushes, fatigue, mood changes, sleep disturbances, and cognitive changes — present distinct challenges in the workplace.
It is crucial for employers to understand and address the specific needs arising during this transition. However, it would seem that many businesses are not moving quickly enough to provide this much-needed support, with 8 in 10 menopausal women reporting that their workplace has no basic support in place for them (The Fawcett Society).
In this article, we’ll explore how UK employers can proactively stand with their female employees during menopause, ensuring an inclusive and understanding professional setting that allows women to thrive.
Supporting women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms isn’t just the right thing to do — employers also have a legal obligation, according to health and safety laws and the Equality Act 2010.
Here in the UK, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 mandates employers to safeguard everyone’s well-being at work — including those experiencing menopause symptoms. While the Equality Act 2010 doesn’t specify menopause as a protected characteristic, any unfavourable treatment due to menopausal symptoms could constitute discrimination based on age, sex, or disability. To learn more, refer to ACAS’s guide on how anti-discrimination laws may apply to menopause.
Back in May 2023, the British Standards Institute (BSI) also published new guidance to help organisations retain experienced staff after a consultation with experts and the public. The Menstruation, menstrual health and menopause in the workplace standard (BS 30416) sets out practical, actionable recommendations for workplace adjustments that ensure the needs of staff experiencing menopause or menstruation are met.
One way employers can support menopausal staff is by introducing a formal menopause policy. Having clear guidelines on the adjustments available and the support on offer can help normalise the conversation around menopause and ensure a consistent and considered approach across the organisation.
According to the Fawcett Society survey, 41% of women reported seeing menopause treated as a joke by people at work. Outdated attitudes can make those experiencing menopause symptoms feel isolated, embarrassed, and discriminated against. So, it’s vital that employers take proactive measures to ensure that their entire team, irrespective of gender or seniority, gains a comprehensive understanding of the subject.
To this end, employers can:
This will help to normalise menopause in your workplace and ensure that staff don’t feel embarrassed or stigmatised for seeking support.
Even with the proper training, not all women may feel comfortable talking to their manager about menopausal symptoms, so consider appointing a designated well-being champion. This is an informed and empathic staff member who acts as a point of contact for any staff who are experiencing issues. A wellbeing champion doesn’t necessarily need to have experienced menopause personally, but they should at least have relevant training in this area and a good grounding of the law and your workplace policies.
The champion can act as a third-party mediator, liaising with HR and management to ensure the proper support measures are put in place. They can also provide resources, advice, or just a listening ear, ensuring women navigating menopause feel valued and understood at work.
You should also make reasonable adjustments to help staff manage their symptoms and minimise the impact they have on their performance. Remember, menopause affects everyone differently, so these supportive measures should always be tailored to the specific needs of the individual.
Examples of reasonable adjustments could include:
The layout and design of your workplace can play a big role in supporting staff with menopause symptoms. However, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. The best option is to create a versatile and adaptable working environment that is inclusive for all employees.
Office features which may prove especially helpful to staff experiencing menopause symptoms include:
Incorporating these into your workspace will be beneficial for all staff — not just those experiencing menopause symptoms.
Supporting women experiencing menopausal symptoms not only cultivates a positive workplace atmosphere but also showcases an employer’s dedication to staff well-being. So, if you haven’t already, now is the time to implement a comprehensive menopause support strategy within your business.
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