Why take menopause at work seriously?
It’s time we changed the way we talk about menopause at work and make sure women have the right support to manage menopause symptoms.
We’re an ageing population, we’re working longer, there are increasing numbers of women in the workplace, including many more in senior positions and in future there will be an even higher proportion of working women of menopausal age.
The menopause and the impact it has on women to work effectively is one of the last health taboos.
Here’s the facts:
- 3.5 million women aged 50 and over in employment, a 72 per cent rise since 1994.
- Around 75-80% of women of menopausal age are in work.
- 75% experience symptoms, of which 25% experience serious symptoms.
- 4 out of 10 women do not seek medical advice even though their symptoms are worse than they expected.
- Symptoms of the menopause usually last between 4 and 8 years.
- Last year’s Wellbeing of Women survey revealed that 25% of women going through the menopause had considered leaving work because of their experiences.
- Women menopause on average at the age of 51, it usually occurs between 45 and 55 but symptoms can start years earlier. Menopause can be much earlier either naturally or as a result of surgery or illness.
How does the menopause affect women in work?
A new Government Report: Menopause transition: effects on women’s economic participation highlights the impact menopause has on working women, what organisations can put in place and the real cost of ignoring it.
A report by Professor Amanda Griffiths, deputy director of the Institute of Work, Health and Organisations, The University of Nottingham, in 2010 for The British Occupational Health Research Foundation looked at the experiences of over 900 working women of menopausal age and found that it’s treated as a taboo subject.
In addition, women we’ve talked to, and companies who’ve started to introduce support for women going through the menopause firmly believe it’s really appreciated. The initiatives and changes don’t even need to be significant to make a huge difference.
We believe it starts with increasing the awareness and understanding of menopause and being able to talk about it openly without any stigma. Without understanding the potential range of symptoms and how they could affect how a woman feels at work makes it hard for a manager to provide the right support.
Not only are women appreciative of the extra help but also men have told us they are too. Whether that’s helping them understand and support their wife or partner or understanding what colleagues are going through.
It only takes a few small changes to policies and practices or simple initiatives to make all the difference. The four overarching issues concluded in the report are to improve:
- Greater awareness of managers about the menopause as a possible occupational health issue for women.
- Increased flexibility of working hours and working arrangements.
- Better access to informal and formal sources of support.
- Improvements in workplace temperature and ventilation.
What we’re seeing now…
- More progressive organisations are starting to raise awareness and support menopausal women, although many organisations haven’t started on the journey.
- Proactive organisations support women, helping them to continue contributing to their business and achieve their potential.
- The first cases of sexual discrimination in relation to menopause are being won. Others are on the radar and could be age, gender or even disability discrimination related. These result not only in financial costs for businesses, but potentially reputation costs too.
- The press are increasingly reporting on menopause in the workplace.
New menopause guidelines are due out soon from the Faculty of Occupational Medicine and the Government has commissioned research studies into menopause support materials available, so change is coming. Another reason for forward-thinking organisations to start factoring menopause into their company guidelines.
We’re passionate about making menopause a subject that is out in the open.
We’ve created a comprehensive, best practice toolkit to make it easy for an organisation to support menopause in the workplace. With years of experience with organisations across the UK, we’ve seen the huge benefits this can give.
Get in touch to talk about how we can help you and your organisation.