Managing menopause in the workplace
With more women working through menopause than ever before, at a crucial time in their career, taking menopause at work seriously is now well documented.
Not before time as an ageing population with one in three of the population over 50 and nearly half women.
New entrants into the workforce are slowing fast and many employers are considering it ‘future-proofing’ their business to retain staff, saving their talent from leaving unnecessarily and saving money.
I could go on about the business case, the cost benefit case, the return on investment – just email me if you want to talk about that. Having got 1,000 organisations underway this year alone with menopause support, our experience is that employers are doing this simply because it’s the right thing to do.
It does take effort to change hearts and minds, particularly about something that can be sensitive and has been misunderstood, even ignored for years. But it’s doable, and we’ve shown time and time again how – making it easy for employers to get started and keep it going.
So, what can you do? Here’s our 6 top tips:
A menopause policy or menopause guidance document
There’s a lot of talk about menopause policies becoming law, in fact it’s already covered by the Equality Act 2010. Whatever you chose to call it, a menopause policy, menopause guidance document or factsheet, it helps everyone understand that your organisation takes it seriously.
Importantly, it’s there for any women who needs help to download it and prepare to discuss support she might need from her line manager. Make sure it’s well publicised and easily available.
Creating an open culture around menopause
Documents themselves won’t be enough, it’s understanding and conversations that change mindsets and culture. Leadership is important here too, when those at the top demonstrate they’re up for the conversation, it sets the right tone or gives permission for others.
An engagement campaign, particularly focused around key dates in the year, like World Menopause Day, get everyone talking and keep the conversation going.
Giving your line managers confidence to help
We’ve run so many training sessions and helped line managers feel confident to talk about menopause and how to provide the right support. It’s an investment that pays back fast. The environment around menopause is changing, it’s coming out into the open and they’re likely to be faced with a menopause conversation, so do this early.
The majority of time, line managers have shown they can make local workplace adjustments without any need to refer to Occupational Health or HR. If they’re prepared!
Backing up line managers
No doubt your organisation provides Occupational Health, Employee Assistance Programmes and HR Partners to support a line manager if they aren’t sure about anything around menopause or support. We never assume that they know the facts either – we’ve seen great examples where they do and ones where they don’t.
Either a refresher or new training will avoid putting them on the spot if they need to provide help.
Happy in what they’re wearing
This one’s more of a longer-term consideration. Let’s be fair, it’s costly to provide lots of new uniforms so just three things to think about.
Firstly, is your uniform up for review and if so, can you add in the question about whether it’s menopause-friendly? That could include the cut or the fabric.
Secondly, don’t make adjustments that make it stand out from the current uniform. An organisation recently developed a new uniform which was very much appreciated, however, the colour stood out from the existing uniform – not all women will want to disclose their menopause status day-to-day so be sure it looks the same.
Thirdly and in the meantime, could the existing uniform be adapted, for example, taking a layer off for comfort if needs be.
Pragmatic approach to workplace facilities
Another one that takes a pragmatic approach. Whenever I’ve run menopause training, for colleagues or line managers, this is often a point of discussion. Being human beings means we feel temperature differently – menopausal or not – male and female. In the same room, a show of hands has split 3 ways: too hot, too cold, just right.
Workplaces often have hot and cold zones, can people choose where they sit rather than organise the work-spaces? Or a desk fan or somewhere well ventilation. Most work-spaces have good toilet and drinking water facilities. Again, be practical.
So, what are you waiting for? Organisations in their hundreds are taking action now, are you?
Deborah Garlick, Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace