Workingwise.co.uk looks at best practice in supporting women with severe symptoms of the menopause at work.
The impact of the menopause on women in the workplace is grabbing more and more headlines as the number of women remaining in the workforce in their later years increases. The need to retain experienced staff given skills shortages means progressive employers are looking at how to support women experiencing severe symptoms.
One recent survey for ITV’s Tonight programme found half of women say the menopause has made their work life worse and a quarter say they have considered leaving their jobs because of it.
There are estimated to be around 3.5m women over 50 in the UK and, according to Tonight, one in four women suffer significant symptoms while going through the menopause.
Its survey found that 85% of women believe there should be occupational health guidelines for menopausal workers. Two thirds said they had no support at work.
The Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM) has recently launched guidance on menopause in the workplace. Its guidelines include practical, low-cost measures on how to improve workplace environments for menopausal women.
Some employers are leading the way. They include Nottinghamshire police which last year published a menopause manager’s guide to help women going through the menopause after concerns that some were leaving the force as a result of their symptoms.
The guide aims “to create an environment where women feel confident enough to raise issues about their symptoms and ask for adjustments at work”. It states:
We will take a pro-active stance by promoting a greater understanding of the menopause and seeking to eradicate any exclusionary or discriminatory practices.
The main thrust of the guide is to educate managers about the issues around menopause so women are able to talk about any problems they might be having without feeling embarrassed.
It also mentions that there might be a need, depending on the severity of symptoms, to make reasonable adjustments, for instance;
The guide also suggests women suffering severe symptoms should be able to request to adjust or partly remove certain items of their uniform where possible. Managers can consider requests not to wear body armour subject to risk assessment.
South Lanarkshire Council launched its Menopause Policy at the end of 2018 and said it would ensure all line managers get trained in how to understand the impact of the menopause in the workplace.
It also provides information to all women in the workplace on how they can find support for any issues that arise as a result of the menopause so that they feel they can raise issues about their symptoms and ask for any adjustments.
Additionally, it promotes guidance and information for those affected indirectly, such as colleagues and partners.
Meanwhile, HR experts XpertHR have produced a model menopause policy for organisations to adapt to support individuals in their workforce experiencing the menopause.
The model policy wording is accompanied by guidance on relevant legislation and case law.
XpertHR says there is “a clear need” for employers to put in place training, information and processes to raise awareness of the issue across their workforce and highlight the support available – and to document this in a well-publicised policy.
Its model policy highlights common symptoms and sets out potential workplace adjustments and internal support measures. It also includes ideas for external support resources, including:
Menopause matters, which provides information about the menopause, menopausal symptoms and treatment options.
The Daisy Network charity, which provides support for women experiencing premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.
The Menopause Café, which provides information about events where strangers gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss the menopause.
For further guidance see the Model Menopause Policy.