Menopause at work: what can you and your employer do?

A new intersectional book on the menopause has some advice for employers and employees about how to deal with its impact in the workplace.

Headache, Depression

 

Awareness about the impact of the menopause has been growing over the last few years. There have been tv programmes and books and several employers have announced menopause at work policies.

Standard Chartered announced this week that it is joining forces with the Financial Services Skills Commission and the Fawcett Society to investigate how the menopause affects the careers of women working in the financial services industry. This will consist of a survey of the commission’s 326,000-strong membership which includes bankers, lawyers, fund managers and insurance workers.

Manage menopause at work with apps

Last month Vira Health soft launched a new app which helps women to manage the menopause. The official public launch follows in the summer in partnership with menopause clinics and workplaces.

Now comes a new book. Published next month, What Fresh Hell Is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities and You, by Heather Corinna, a Chicago-based activist and sex educator, talks about how perimenopause and menopause experiences are unique and that no one-size-fits-all.

The book gives some general advice, however, on managing the effects and includes a section on menopause at work.

Different jobs, different demands

Corinna says different jobs have different demands and the impact of the menopause also depends on individuals’ experience of menopause. However, workplaces need to treat menopause the same as any other part of the human life cycle.

“At the very least we need to feel safe and comfortable telling managers and other people we work with that we’re in it if we are to find ways to make it work with work,” writes Corinna.

There is some general advice for those facing particular symptoms in the workplace. They include:

  • ask for what you need. If necessary, join forces with others to have a broader impact
  • consider leading an education campaign to raise awareness in your workplace
  • given ageism, sexism, ableism act against those in menopause, make the case that it is in your employer’s long-term interests to retain people, particularly given many who have passed the menopause can feel a greater focus and sense of clarity
  • make the case that adjustments are better for employers in the long term instead of long or frequent periods of sick leave. These can include more breaks, longer breaks [for a nap], shift swapping and remote or flexible working
  • other suggestions are, for those who have to wear uniforms, to provide them in lighter material, should consider temperature controls at work and ensure people have easy access to water and toilets
  • employers should have anti-harassment policies in place to avoid other employees ridiculing people due to the impact of the menopause.
  • For employees who are suffering extreme symptoms, such as depression or arthritis, Corinna suggests considering asking for temporary disability status

There’s also some general advice for those facing the menopause too:

  • lower your expectations
  • take it easy if you can
  • automate everything you can
  • use any organisational tools that might help you
  • delegate
  • replace things you don’t have to do with sleep
  • set limits and boundaries
  • use the relative invisibility of being middle aged to your own advantage, for example, to get in late

Corinna argues that the menopause can be a stimulus for positive change, depending on people’s mindset.

*What Fresh Hell Is This? by Heather Corinna is published by Piatkus books on 1st June 2021, paperback £14.99.



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