How Metro Bank is leading for a better understanding of menopause in the workplace.
October 18 is Menopause Awareness Day, which is a great opportunity for businesses to talk about the issue and promote events to raise awareness and understanding around it. However, it requires more than one day to make concrete changes for employees impacted by this issue.
Lately, more companies, including PwC, HarperCollins UK, Santander UK and Tesco have acknowledged that and decided to tackle menopause at work. They have now recognised menopause as an issue in the workplace and decided to start talking openly about it. What’s more, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health has recently said that businesses need to support employees going through the menopause and make them feel more comfortable about requesting support.
Metro Bank is one of the companies trying to change the narrative around menopause in the workplace. The retail and commercial bank has various groups to support employees as they navigate different challenges in the workplace, where they cover issues and promote events to improve their employees’ experience of working in the company.
One of their networks is Women On Work network, or WOW, as they call it. WoW focuses on issues that matter to women and anyone who identifies as a woman, although they also encourage anybody who is interested in these issues to come along to their events and join their membership and community. Indeed, male allies are also part of their group, including line managers and colleagues.
In order to support the career journey of female employees at Metro Bank, one of their main objectives is promoting and supporting their wellbeing, which encompasses different activities and talks.
When media attention shifting to menopause in the workplace and more companies implementing a policy for it, Judith Lowe, chair of WoW, and her colleagues realised that Metro Bank needed to do more than the annual event run in October on Menopause Awareness Day.
“Back in July we started looking at our data and the gender split and then the age splits of women in our organisation. Aside from the colleague wellbeing issues, our organisation is ageing as well as any other organisation, and this is going to happen to every single woman,” says Lowe.
As they started talking more about menopause, the committee noticed how they had not covered this topic until then, a topic still perceived as a taboo in different environments. They decided to turn things around.
“It just felt as though we really had to do something about it, we had to educate and create awareness, for the women in our business, who might be suffering silently on their own, as we know they do,” says Lowe.
Whilst some of the actions needed were wider bank and employer issues, other changes could be made and promoted directly by the women’s network and they decided to act immediately.
“It started off in July with me thinking, ‘Menopause Awareness is October, wouldn’t it be great when we get to October to be able to turn around and say we delivered all of these things? Let’s not wait for October before we start delivering and doing something now,” recalls Lowe.
Firstly, in August they launched a survey across the company. “The survey was for whichever gender. From a women’s perspective, we asked questions about symptoms, whether they were impacting their lives and their day jobs, but equally we had a set of questions for our male colleagues around awareness and whether they were comfortable about having a conversation about it,” explains Lowe.
Following the responses received, they decided to emphasise that menopause is not something that affects only women over 50 and that everyone should be equipped to deal with it and feel comfortable speaking about it.
For this reasons, they decided to create a menopause awareness page on their website that gives guidelines to their colleagues and leaders on how to deal with menopause if they are affected by it personally or if someone around them is struggling with it.
The next step was updating the absence leave code in their HR system, including menopause in the reasons related to sickness leave, as well as introducing a free support app for anyone within the company to call for advice regarding menopause and discussing their symptoms with medical experts.
Lowe says: “Hopefully these changes, in addition to the new guidelines and the awareness work that we’re doing, will open up the conversation between colleagues and their line managers and enable people to speak about it openly and honestly so that we can understand the impact menopause is having on our colleagues.”
All of these new additions to the company then led to planning for Menopause Awareness Day.
The event, as the name says, will be an opportunity to continue and emphasise the work the company is doing to heighten awareness around menopause and to address the stigma associated with it.
On the day, they will be offering an online lunch session with an expert to help people understand menopause. Another way to open up the conversation across Metro Bank is through some employees sharing their experiences through written blog posts which are being published throughout October.
“The biggest issue is that women feel like they can’t do their jobs and can’t cope with it because of the symptoms and that actually forces some women to give up the jobs that they’ve worked their whole career for and that shouldn’t be the case,” says Lowe.
She adds: “All of this is really about making sure that we support our women colleagues through this season of their lives. We don’t want to lose the talent and the experience that we’ve got in the bank because of something that every woman goes through.”