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A chance LinkedIn post started Santander off on their journey to becoming a menopause friendly organisation.

As a global bank, Santander’s purpose is to help people and businesses prosper. And its culture ambition is to help all colleagues to thrive in the workplace. Voted the world’s best bank for D&I by Euro Money in 2020, it was in a great place to start on its menopause support journey.

Here, Theresa Winters, Senior HR manager Employee Experience Proposition, explains what Santander has been doing since launching its menopause support programme in 2019:

Strangely enough, our menopause journey began back in June 2019 when I was on holiday in Corfu. I was sitting by the pool checking LinkedIn (I don’t know why, but I’m glad I did!) and I noticed a post about how the average age to reach menopause in the UK is 51. This resonated, as I was 51 at the time and had absolutely no clue if I was in menopause. I shared the post, saying our organisation was very focussed and supportive of colleagues’ wellbeing and I hoped if the time came and I needed support, I’d be given it. My director replied, suggesting we chat when I got back.

And I’m so glad I read and shared that post. It started a conversation within my team to understand what we could do to start the conversation about menopause. We did have guidelines in place but they were somewhat hidden on our intranet, so we set about a number of activities to better understand what communication and support was required. Our programme of activity grew from this and we continue to build on what we have in place to ensure our colleagues are supported when they need it.

Why are we supporting menopause in the workplace at Santander?

I did some digging back in 2019 and discovered the following facts:

  • Over 25% of our female colleagues are of menopausal age (over 3,000).
  • Over 50% of our people managers are male.
  • Around 15% of absence in 2019 was women aged 45-55.
  • 10% of branch banking leavers in 2019 were women between 45-55.

We also conducted a colleague survey which had the following responses:

  • 15% reported absence in the previous 12 months due to menopause symptoms.
  • Just under half of respondents did not feel comfortable talking to their manager about menopause.
  • Only one in three felt supported at work.

These statistics supported our desire to address these issues, as a responsible employer, and to improve our colleagues’ wellbeing. We also realised that providing support could have many additional benefits including increased engagement, less absence and attrition, and increased attraction.

Priority areas

We have developed four priority areas of focus and have implemented a range of activities in each.

  1. Building awareness and understanding

We started our activity through a communication campaign around World Menopause Day 2019. This included an organisation-wide Intranet communication about why menopause support at work matters, including key facts and external sources of support. We also shared a short survey to establish what colleagues were experiencing at work, what support they needed and what they felt managers needed to know.

We carried out some site awareness sessions to raise awareness and have conversations with colleagues and managers, and gave out leaflets to help build understanding. These were incredibly insightful. I heard some humbling stories and got lots of feedback about how great it was that Santander were doing something. This really reinforced the need for us to keep the conversations going across the organisation.

We also set up a ‘Let’s Talk About Menopause’ site on our online Wellbeing Hub. This included our Menopause Guidelines, so they were easier to find, some key facts about menopause and some helpful external links and sources of support.

All this activity was just the start. We were very clear that this wasn’t a one-month wonder, we knew we needed to give continued focus and importance to make discussion and support for menopause a truly open and normal thing.

  1. Creating a psychologically safe workplace

It was important to demonstrate to colleagues and managers that we wanted to talk openly about menopause at Santander, and to find different ways for colleagues to speak up to get support, if they needed it. This isn’t easy when you’re a very large organisation spread across multiple sites. We are very much still on this journey, but we are building different channels to encourage a psychologically safe environment. This includes regular communications often tied to key events, such as World Menopause Day, International Women’s Day and National Mental Health week.

Communications should always be inclusive – menopause is a workplace issue. It is not gender or age specific.

It’s also very important to have senior sponsorship. Two of our senior leaders on our Executive leadership committee are Gender sponsors and are very supportive of our menopause programme and champion it within communications. We also know that many colleagues might not want to talk to their manager about menopause, no matter how supportive they are, so we’ve been up-skilling our Occupational Health team and HR consultants as well as providing manager training.

I think the more avenues of support we can introduce, the better. As more people were working from home due to Covid, we also set up a private chat group through Microsoft Teams. Ultimately, it’s about trying different ways to connect and encourage people to speak up to get the support they need. The next thing on our agenda for 2022 is to look at launching Meno groups or Cafes to encourage discussion with others going through the menopause.

  1. Support for leaders and managers

This is incredibly important if you want to ensure that discussion about menopause and support is visible and normalised. We provide manager guidance via our online site and e-learning training for People Managers.  We wanted managers to learn more about menopause, understand what adjustments they could put in place and where they could find more information.

Our HR consultants support absence and performance cases, so it was important to educate them to better support managers and colleagues. We identified live cases and were able to make sure that the managers and HR colleagues had the right knowledge to support appropriately. Importantly we tell managers that they don’t need to be menopause experts but they need to know the key facts, impacts and help available to have the initial conversations and to provide support.

  1. Guidance and practical support

Beyond our internal practical support from Health & Safety and HR colleagues we are very proud to partner with Peppy Health to provide expert clinical advice on menopause. We have over 600 colleagues registered via their mobile phone. The support includes one-to-one text chat with an expert nurse practitioner, access to specialist phone appointments, group chat plus a webinar programme covering a wide range of topics from HRT to stress management. We receive amazing feedback from colleagues about the difference this support is making, and we strongly believe this is having a direct impact on engagement, attrition and presenteeism.

We’ve also trained a group of 12 Menopause Advocates through Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace to help us raise awareness and signpost colleagues and managers to the support they need. This has been a great addition for us as a big organisation, as they are able to help make a tangible difference in our business areas, including running awareness sessions and helping with individual questions. We’re really excited about the future and what we can achieve with a team of passionate Menopause Advocates.

We’re nearly 2 years into our journey and still have lots of ideas and plans. At the heart of our support is our desire to support our colleagues’ health and wellbeing to enable them to thrive.

Also, if you can say you’re a menopause friendly organisation it gives a strong message about your brand. It says you take colleague wellbeing seriously, that you’re a place people will want to work – and want to stay working.

My tips about getting started:

  • Be clear about why you’re supporting menopause in the workplace and always share this.
  • Talk to your colleagues, ask them about their experience at work.
  • Be inclusive – menopause support is not for one gender or age group.
  • Communicate through a wide range of channels.
  • Share personal stories (with permission). These are very powerful to help engage others and raise awareness.
  • Not everyone will want to talk openly about their menopause journey so have different avenues of support.
  • Leverage internal support from Health & Safety and HR teams.
  • Make use of external sources of information and training.
  • Provide private employee chat groups to support those working from home.

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