Women are now working much later into their lives than previously. According to the Department for Work & Pensions, the amount of women aged 60-64 in the workplace has risen from 18% to 41% over the past 30 years, and the amount of women aged 55-59 has increased from 49% to 69%.
The average age of menopause is 51, but unfortunately many workplaces are struggling to accommodate the needs, comforts and basic rights of their colleagues as they experience it. A Wellbeing of Women survey found that one in four women consider leaving their jobs because of menopausal symptoms, which can include anxiety, depression, poor sleep, headaches, an inability to concentrate and much more
Through an extensive survey we recently conducted, we also found that 57% of women going through the menopause experienced a hostile workplace environment which went on to impact their wellbeing and ability to work.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, these issues have been exacerbated for many women as HRT shortages, home schooling demands, reduced toilet access, increased stress levels, social isolation, increased screen time and much more, all impacted on their ability to manage, navigate and cope with menopausal symptoms as they arose, whilst also balancing the demands of working either remotely or in front-line services.
As a result of all the above, the majority of women still don’t feel comfortable talking about the menopause at work or informing their line managers about what they are going through. This led to 55.1% of the women we surveyed considering reducing their hours or leaving their jobs.
Even when women do bring it up, a recent Trade Unions Congress Wales survey found that six out of ten female workers saw it treated as a joke when they raised it. As a result, there have already been successful employment tribunals against employers.
The positive news is that according to our research, most workplaces are potentially interested in developing a standalone menopause policy and most of the required adjustments are either free or relatively inexpensive to implement.
Our Menopause in the Workplace report
You can click here to read our full Menopause in the Workplace report. This contains our research from the findings from our surveys, focus groups and email interviews, as well as recommendations for employers.
Taking action in the workplace
To create a supportive environment for colleagues going through the menopause, there are number of recommended steps workplaces can take. Here, we’ll introduce you to a few:
1. Create and implement a Menopause Policy
- A policy provides clarity for managers and employees by, for example, setting out key responsibilities and signposting to sources of support.
- It breaks longstanding silence. It normalises and encourages discussions of menopause in the workplace.
- By breaking this silence, a policy then provides an opportunity to engage with employees on any issues and shows the workforce it regards the menopause as a serious work-related health issue.
2. Train managers
81.3% of women we spoke to felt their line managers needed to receive specialist training on the menopause.
- Appropriately trained managers can enable women to carry on working through the menopause.
- Workers will then be able to speak to their managers about any reasonable adjustments that workplaces are legally obliged to provide as well as see these implemented.
- There are multiple specialist organisations and online resources which support managers to effectively manage people with menopausal symptoms, two examples include:
- ‘The Menopause at Work: A Practical Guide for People Managers’ created by CIPD.
- Menopause in the Workplace’s highly regarded training.
3. Support the creation of peer-led groups and women’s networks
Giving women the opportunity to network with colleagues experiencing similar issues and be involved in menopause support groups is a simple and effective way to encourage a supportive environment within your workplace.
Women we spoke to reported wanting:
- A safe and understanding space for women to share ideas and experiences
- More educational materials and resources, such as Meg Mathews’ website.
- “Confidence re-building sessions”
- Opportunities to network with other women within their organisation
‘Menopause Cafes’ are one type of peer support group that women can set-up and attend. They are organised through a not-for-profit organisation and offer accessible spaces free from stigma.
Taking action during the pandemic
1. Offer extra mental health support to employees
Menopausal women have been feeling particularly high levels of anxiety and distress during the pandemic. Employers can help tackle this by increasing their mental health provision as a matter of urgency and actively encouraging employees to partake in the services provided. Smaller organisations can also signpost employees to affordable mental health support, such as our own online support and counselling service.
2. Improve PPE
Responses to our survey showed there’s a serious issue with the current designs of PPE which is restrictive, unbreathable and highly uncomfortable. As PPE develops, new designs must take into account women’s’ experiences of the menopause and employers must seek to provide PPE that’s appropriate for everyone.
3. Prioritise re-opening toilets
Also flagged through our research was the fact that menopausal women are being forced to wait longer to access toilets, which can be inconvenient and cause distress. Employers and businesses must prioritise re-opening any toilets that were closed during lock-down and look to increase the number of toilets available to women.
4. Supply blue screen filters
A number of women reported migraines and headaches as a menopausal symptom. Employers could provide blue screen filters to employees to help reduce the risk of migraines caused by screens.
5. Continued flexible working
Women have mostly reported positively about home working. Employers are encouraged to continue offering flexible working, including home working, plus an increased amount of social activities to tackle the potential isolation of working from home.
Find out more
- Click here to read our full Menopause and the Workplace report
- Click here to browse our list of menopause resources
- Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to keep up-to-date with our work. Throughout October 2020 we will be posting lots of useful information and resources about menopause on our social media.