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The University of Bradford is extending its menopause in the workplace support to embrace all of its communities and cultures. 

Menopause in the workplace support was first mentioned at the University of Bradford by the management team from the Faculty of Health Studies. This comprised a group of mainly female staff over 40, who realised they were all automatically supporting each other with their different menopause symptoms. But the management team also realised that there wasn’t any documentation in place for all colleagues who might not have their understanding.

HR began to write a policy, but had to put it on hold. When they returned to it, they realised they’d been writing a formal, rather dry policy, when what they wanted was to give people the tools to start a conversation.

They also wanted it to be as inclusive as possible. This meant considering the trans community, those undertaking IVF, undergoing hormonal treatments – as well as the fact that 60% of their overall staff were over 40.

They asked Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace to run a one-day session, with a diverse range of groups coming together to discuss the document and decide how to engage communities within the university.

“We wanted to have a phased approach, as we knew we couldn’t go all-singing, all-dancing right away,” says senior HR business partner Kate Rogers. “So to start with we developed a document for supporting menopause and hormonal changes, including the trans journey. We covered early menopause, and the grief this can sometimes bring to those unable to have a family. And we included a checklist to explain what the symptoms of menopause and hormonal changes could be.

“We didn’t just want this to be about workplace support, so we included a guideline to help colleagues have a discussion with their GP, which was very well received.”

An inclusive approach at the University of Bradford

The University put together an outline plan for how colleagues could have a discussion with their manager – and vice versa – and any potential adjustments they could ask for. As the University campus is based across multiple buildings, the team identified all areas with toilets with sinks and showers, to support those having hot flushes or heavy bleeding.

To make the document as inclusive as possible, the team involved all stakeholders, including the equality forums – particularly the gender forum and n-able, the disability forum – and trade unions.

Along with Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace they ran manager and employer sessions to make sure everyone was fully trained. But they were aware they were missing some groups of employees and the student body.

The University didn’t want the conversation to stop there, and decided to reignite the discussion for World Menopause Day. The University employs a group of around 120 cleaners from local community groups, who are from a range of different countries and cultures. To start things off, they identified one member of staff who’d helped with similar things before.

“She was great,” continue Kate. “She talked to her colleagues and identified someone from each community group. Together they had the discussion about how to get the right information out, to give everyone a voice.

“We devised a new training session, to begin early in the morning and fit around shifts. We split the room into smaller tables, as we knew many would not join in a big group conversation. And for cultural reasons, it was for women only.

“The women could speak the language of their choice and sit where they were most comfortable. These are very intimate issues and we wanted them to get the most from the conversation. We also amended the documentation to support those whose first language isn’t English.”

Spreading the word to the community

An incredible 90 staff turned up to the session. The expectation had been that people would leave early, but in fact the session ran on for an extra half an hour.

Lots of questions were raised, which highlighted that not everyone has access to the same information as others, especially online. The University gave them posters and documents, and many women took them for their temples, mosques and community groups.

Feedback included:

“Very informative, clear and consice. I took mine home for my 40+ daughter who is just entering the menopause.”

“In our culture we don’t have a name for menopause, for me I heard it first time and it’s very helpful.”

“Explaining what things were made it easier to understand what is inside us and how it all works.”

“It was enlightening to realise there isn’t a word for menopause in every language,” says Kate. “We had to make sure we adjusted our language, both written and spoken. We got really positive feedback from our sessions, everyone felt much more knowledgeable afterwards.”

Trainer Sally Leech adds: “After the early morning session one woman gave me a hug and said ‘thank you, you don’t know what it means to be able to talk about this all together. We never normally have the chance to do this’.”

Kate tips for creating an inclusive document are:

  • Look at lived experience. Don’t make assumptions based around your own experience, but speak to the people you’re trying to engage.
  • Use what resources are available. We were offered some free translated resources and we jumped at the chance.
  • Constantly change. You don’t write these documents on tablets of stone, so keep on talking and updating to engage as many people as you can.

The University was shortlisted for a UHR award and is nominated for awards from CIPD and Personnel Today for their work on menopause.

Thanks to Kate Rogers from the University of Bradford. 

Sally Leech is an Associate Trainer at Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace

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