Survey shows need for action on menopause at work

A new survey by the union Unite finds most employees feel they do not get any support for dealing with menopausal symptoms at work.

Menopause spelled out in white on a pink background. In the middle is a clock with a pause symbol on it


83 per cent of women experiencing the menopause do not have access to support within Britain’s workplaces, according to a Unite survey of over 11,000 female members.

Of the women who do not have menopause support, many expressed serious unease when talking about the topic at work – due to male-dominated environments. Many women said they are not even allowed simple adjustments, such as fans for the office or leave of absence.

One respondent told Unite that a male boss referred to her as ‘pathetic’ for having a hand fan. Another said that it is unsafe to do her job with extreme menopausal symptoms – such as insomnia or dizziness – but said she has to go into work as she can’t afford to lose pay.  Another woman, who works within the aerospace and shipbuilding sector, said that she took early retirement because of her menopausal symptoms as she had very little support at work.

A woman who works in Civil Air Transport told Unite that she has to work in a uniform that exacerbates hot flushes – and has nowhere to change. The worker said: “Lots of requests have been made to provide our outside access posts with more adequate cooling options, such as tinting on the windows and fans. But management’s answer was to give us sunscreen, which does absolutely nothing to relieve the symptoms of menopause.”

Unite is using the findings of the survey to redouble its efforts to ensure that employers introduce menopause awareness policies. It is calling for menopause awareness and understanding to be made compulsory for employers, menopause-related sickness being discounted from sick absence, uniform materials, such as polyester, to be scrapped and menopause-friendly employers to be audited.

Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, said:“It’s despicable that so many women do not have access to basic support. It’s a serious industrial matter and attitudes must shift as we work to make lasting improvements for everyone in the workplace.”

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