People & Culture

World Menopause Month: How employers can support staff experiencing menopause

Understand how employers can support women through menopause with adjustments, training, champions, and adaptable workplaces.

By Making Moves London

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.

Menopause and the law

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.

Changing attitudes via training

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:

  • Host regular awareness sessions and workshops. These events can equip employees with the knowledge they need, and also open up a dialogue for those experiencing menopausal symptoms to share their experiences and needs.
  • Provide access to a range of resources on menopause and symptoms, such as books, pamphlets, or curated online materials.
  • Implement sensitivity training to teach staff to approach the topic with empathy and understanding.

This will help to normalise menopause in your workplace and ensure that staff don’t feel embarrassed or stigmatised for seeking support.

Appointing wellbeing champions

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.

Making reasonable adjustments

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:

  • Adapting the dress code or uniform. Permitting breathable fabrics or layers that can easily be added or removed to help manage body temperature fluctuations.
  • Offering more flexible working hours. Allow staff to modify their start and finish times or take breaks when symptoms peak. This will help them manage potential sleep disturbances or fatigue.
  • Hybrid working: If you operate a hybrid work model, allowing staff to choose which days they work from home can help them manage their symptoms more effectively.
  • Time off for medical appointments. Getting an out-of-hours GP appointment can be difficult, so allow staff paid time off to seek medical help where possible.

Creating an adaptable workplace

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:

  • Temperature control measures. Ensure the availability of fans, air conditioning, or openable windows to help manage hot flushes.
  • Hot desking. Give staff a choice of different working spaces, including quiet focus areas, break-out spaces, meeting rooms, and communal working areas. This way, everyone can choose an environment that suits their needs in the moment.
  • Ergonomic workstations. Menopause can increase joint pain, so adjustable ergonomic desks, chairs, and equipment are a must.
  • Private rest areas. Create a quiet and comfortable space where staff can go if they need to take a break, especially during particularly overwhelming symptoms or moments of fatigue.
  • Toilet access. Accessible cubicle toilets that offer space and privacy can help staff manage issues such as incontinence that may worsen during and after menopause.
  • Refreshments. Cold drinking water should be readily available throughout the day.

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.