How to write a menopause policy
Making your organisation menopause friendly for each and every one of your colleagues.
A menopause-friendly organisation understands the importance and value of supporting those with menopausal symptoms in the workplace. But beyond that, it’s one which has an established pathway for this support, with accessible documents which are publicised across the business. But how to go about this?
Here are some key things to consider:
Look at your existing documents
All organisations are different, and the way you present your documents will be, too. Some prefer to embed their menopause support in a formal policy document, which fits in with their wider portfolio of policies. Others choose to write guidance documents. It’s up to you how you do it.
While you’re reviewing the policies, e.g. Absence and Sickness, Wellbeing, Diversity and Inclusion etc, think about whether you could add menopause content in their too. It might just be in the examples but helps embed menopause as part of the conversation.
Make it accessible – regularly publicise it
You could have the best policy or documents in the world. But if they’re sitting on your intranet and nobody knows they’re there, they won’t help much. You may even have had a launch party, but that still doesn’t mean the word has got out to everyone. Keep the communications going and keep letting people know where to find the information.
Understand the value of your documents
We would never advocate simply writing documents as a box-ticking exercise. Imagine you’re a menopausal woman, struggling with symptoms. If you can easily find the documents and be really clear as to how you, as her employer, will support her, that will give her a lot of comfort.
Equally, imagine you’re a line manager and someone puts a meeting in your diary to discuss menopause. It’s good for them to be able to fully understand your organisation’s approach as well.
Remember, this doesn’t replace training
We can’t emphasise this enough. Good quality training is still key, and works in tandem with your documents. One doesn’t replace the other. In every single tribunal that’s been won, there’s a constant theme of line managers lacking understanding.
Consider how your documents will work within your organisation
Although we’ve noticed consistent themes over documents, factsheets and policies we’ve written, they’ve all also been different in their own way. If your existing documentation is highly detailed, make sure your menopause guidance is too. If you think that calling it a ‘policy’ will be offputting, choose a different style. Conversely, if policies are the only things your organisation will take seriously, then this is the right path.
Diversity and inclusion
This is a vital part of your menopause support. Understanding how to reach male, trans, non binary and intersex colleagues must be part of your considerations. Which does mean using the word ‘woman’ and pronouns ‘she/her’ can sometimes feel divisive. But it can be tricky, as you also want your document to be clear.
It can be a good idea to include a statement to the effect of ‘We understand that others may experience menopause-type symptoms, while we use the words woman/she/her throughout this document, this support is designed for all our colleagues.’
Look to your language
The way you write needs to reflect your other documents and fit well with your brand. One thing to consider is changing your language to first person. So instead of an ‘us and them’ approach, it’s ‘we and you.’ This is much warmer and inclusive, and removes any issues over which pronouns to use. Plain English is really important, too. The clearer you are, the more everyone will understand their role.
What to include?
Again, this is individual to each organisation. But a few pointers are:
1. Link to your strategy. It’s a good idea to start with a statement which links back to your overarching HR or wellbeing strategy. For example, ‘Our aim is to be a fully inclusive organisation and help all our colleagues be at their best.’ Some include the legal frameworks that support menopause, others not. Most organisations are doing this because it’s the right thing to do and they care about their colleagues’ wellbeing.
2. Include definitions of menopause. These don’t have to be long, just make sure they’re really clear. Menopause is when a woman has not had a period for 12 months – the following day is classed as menopause. Perimenopause is the time leading up to this, which is when a woman may experience symptoms. Post menopause is the time beyond menopause.
Some talk about menopause as a ‘natural’ stage in a woman’s life but for a large number of women it is surgical or induced. It’s more inclusive to simply refer to it as a ‘stage’.
We sometimes also see menopause classed as a time women are no longer fertile. While this isn’t inaccurate, it’s not something we’d recommend you use in your documents. Many women do have surprise pregnancies around their menopause – there is even guidance about how long to take contraception post menopause.
And there’s an emotional side too. For some women, reaching menopause can lead to a sense of bereavement if they haven’t had children or had another child.
3. Range of symptoms. Including these can help people understand how they can affect a woman at work. This is no definitive number of list – so better to give examples.
4. Reasonable adjustments. Here you can explain what line managers can offer to help with these symptoms. Again, you can give examples rather than a long menu. Reasonable adjustments are on a case-by-case basis.
5. Good signposting. Make sure any links you include are to reputable sources. While you shouldn’t offer medical advice, you should always suggest a woman speaks to her GP to discuss her symptoms.
Occupational Health and HR
It’s essential that Occupational Health and HR are fully versed in what you’re doing. If a colleague or line manager is relying on them for advice, they need to fully understand the type of adjustments available. Again, this is where good quality training comes in.
Most menopause documents can be relatively simple. Being clear about what support is available and making sure all colleagues understand what they can access it more important that writing a huge policy document that no one knows is there.
If you’d like to talk to us about writing menopause documents or examples, please do get in touch.
Deborah Garlick is founder of Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace.
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Or get in touch: Menopause@henpicked.net