What employers can do to tackle workplace taboos such as menopause

Diverse old and young female colleagues talking at work, african and caucasian business women sitting together in office having friendly conversation, mentor intern discussing planning shared project, Menopause

By Romanie Thomas, CEO and Founder of Juggle Jobs

In spite of the fact that nearly half of the population experiences menopause, businesses have largely ignored the topic for too long.

More often than not, this biological change occurs at a critical juncture in a woman’s career. With the majority of women experiencing menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, this is a point where many have reached top leadership, c-suite, or managerial roles within their respective companies. Despite this, businesses continually struggle to support experienced female workers as they go through menopause. Of course, it’s not just menopause that needs to be considered; we need to remove the taboo surrounding other important female life events such as periods, pregnancy, the loss of a pregnancy or child and abortion, too. 

A 2019 survey conducted by BUPA and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that three in five menopausal women (aged between 45 and 55) were negatively affected at work – and almost 900,000 women in the UK had left their jobs because of menopausal symptoms. The loss of women from the workforce, while they are at the peak of their professional careers, is not only a huge detriment to the economy, but also to diversity at executive levels. This in turn contributes to the gender pay gap. Although discrimination against menopause is covered under The Equality Act 2010, and The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers are still not doing enough to protect and support their staff through this difficult time.

The lack of support for those going through menopause is a real threat to the workforce. With the pandemic regularly cited as eroding many of the hard-earned gains of the past few years, we are currently at a point in time when whatever equity women have managed to secure is in danger. 

There are many reasons for this, but the underlying theme is of workplaces that cannot or will not support the specific needs of women. Never has the noise around diversity, equity and inclusion been as loud, but those companies that claim to put DEI at the heart of their culture while failing to acknowledge the needs of employees will be exposed. The pandemic has made many reassess their values – when it comes to work, that means interrogating whether their employer is truly supportive of their needs. Businesses that ignore these issues or do the bare minimum run the risk of losing vital staff at a critical moment.  

Employers need to be proactive in removing these workplace taboos and tackling the underlying culture that propagates them. One of the best ways in which companies can help to support their staff who are suffering from menopause is to normalise flexible working. Flexible working is not a women-only issue, it’s a human one. It also isn’t always connected to health or childcare, but a large part of it is. Making flexible working the de facto way to work would not isolate those experiencing pressures such as these.

Companies that prepare for inclusivity will not only openly and clearly communicate policies but will also be proactively changing the narrative around menopause, female reproductive issues, and other health conditions. They will go beyond what is legally required and expected to ensure that every member of their team feels included and supported. Not only will this instil a sense of trust within employees, but it will also nurture loyalty, especially if companies offer additional support.

To create change, we need those in power to stand up and advocate for a kinder, more compassionate workplace – one that makes clear that everyone is extremely welcome and fundamentally valued.

Now the decision-makers have to decide whether they want to perpetuate the status quo, or to make the necessary organisational changes that will lead to a brighter, more accepting and diverse future.

About the author

Romanie ThomasRomanie is building a platform that will forever alter the way businesses hire experienced workers – what she calls the ‘flexperts’. As a successful head-hunter, she understands first-hand how companies can hire and retain senior staff – the answer is flexible, fair, and supportive working arrangements. More critically, during her decade-long career as a senior recruiter, Romanie saw little progress on diversity at the leadership level. Today, less than 10% of business executives are women. Romanie has a vision to grow this percentage to 50% by 2027, and with the success of Juggle Jobs and its flexpert community, she is uniquely positioned to do so. 

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