With concerns around access to HRT on the news agenda, Kate Palmer from HR experts Peninsula outlines why employers need to think about developing greater menopause awareness and support.
There are more women aged 50 and over in the workforce now than ever before, and this number is expected to grow over the coming years. Despite this, many employers aren’t focused on supporting their staff through the menopause. A recent report found that 72% of firms do not have a relevant menopause policy in place.
Brain fog, anxiety, hot flushes and low mood are just a few of the many symptoms caused by the menopause. Any of these can make the workplace a difficult environment to be in but, whether out of ignorance or embarrassment, many employers fail to notice the signs of employees struggling with symptoms of menopause.
Under the Equality Act (2010), menopause is largely covered by age, sex, and disability discrimination, meaning failure to acknowledge the condition could prove costly for employers. The number of tribunal cases involving menopause has risen considerably and a bill to make menopause support more accessible is making its way through Parliament.
More than 600 UK-based companies have recently signed a pledge to make their workplaces more supportive of staff experiencing the menopause, and I’m proud to say that the Peninsula Group is amongst them. We’ve also put together specific policies and e-learning courses around the menopause to help support both our employees and clients.
If you notice an employee’s attendance or performance slipping, it’s important to talk to them and find out how you can help. However asking an employee directly if they are experiencing symptoms of the menopause could cause great offence/embarrassment.
Confidentiality is key when discussing health, so having regular one-to-one catch ups with employees can help build trust and foster an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking openly about sensitive topics.
As with any condition that could be considered a disability, employers have a duty of care to make relevant reasonable adjustments. Support should be offered in the same way as any other health condition, including providing a suitable working environment.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the menopause and what may help one employee could be detrimental to another. Don’t make any assumptions about how someone is feeling, if you want to know, then the best thing to do is ask. A genuine enquiry about someone’s wellbeing can go a long way.
Reasonable adjustments to the workspace could be as simple as a providing a fan or moving an employee’s desk away from a radiator or heater. Even a temporary adjustment to someone’s work duties or schedule can make a big difference.
With half the workforce likely to experience the menopause during their careers, failure to provide proper support can lead to employees feeling angry and underappreciated which, in turn, will lead to high turnover.
Now is the time for employers to break the taboo and take a stance, cementing themselves as an organisation that supports their staff throughout every stage of their career. I would encourage all employers to join me in signing the Workplace Menopause Pledge here.
*Kate Palmer [pictured above] is Associate Director of Advisory at Peninsula which provides HR and health & safety support for small businesses.