When I first experienced menopause symptoms aged just 40, I felt I lost my identity and struggled badly with things like brain fog and anxiety-all of which impacted me in the workplace along with other areas of my life. Once I’d learnt about menopause, I made it my mission that my business would support and train all its colleagues in menopause – and I believe all businesses should take a leaf out of my book.
The facts around menopause in the workplace are staggering: 1 in 10 are thought to have left their job during menopause and 8/10 said that their employers hadn’t trained staff or put in place a menopause abscence policy. It’s no wonder menopause tribunal cases have trippled in the last year.
Part of this is that the topic, despite us talking more openly, remains hush hush in some workplace cultures and this lack of conversation has drastic consequences. There’s no denying that symptoms such as brain fog can make working more difficult for women going through menopause, which could lead to issues like missed deadlines or seemingly not concentrating at work. There’s two issues here: employers not understanding menopause may misinterpret this as lack of effort rather than supporting staff, even resulting in disciplinaries. Almost a million women going through menopause quit their job and one of the most common reasons was a lack of understanding from management of what they were experiencing.
Women going through menopause may also lack the confidence to speak to their HR team: 75% of women felt as if they couldn’t talk about menopause with their colleagues.
Menopausal women are the highest growing demographic in the workplace (there’s thought to be almost 6 million women of menopausal and pre-menopausal age working in the UK) and if we don’t begin to understand how to best support women going through it, we will most likely lose talented and dedicated team members and we will lose diversity within our businesses
It’s, of course, worth noting that the legislation under the Equality Act 2010 also requires employers to make provisions and reasonable adjustments going through any phases of menopause because it encompasses equality and inclusion for all, so HR teams need to make sure they’re complying with this legalisation. By using knowledge and implementing practical steps we can save companies substantial amount of money avoiding new recruitment and potentially employment tribunals but, most importantly, ensure we’re leading to happier and supported employees.
After going through menopause myself, I made it my mission to educate others about it. I implented a menopause policy in my workplace as a priority and delivered this training to managers and HR were able to support members of the team who was struggling. We also use menopause champions, who support members with signposting to lots of free resources and support. From this, I developed a training program (‘Don’t Pause for menopause at work’) to deliver workshop to HR and managers about menopause is and it’s impact on the workplace.
Firstly, it’s not about a tick sheet. There must be practical application and understanding throughout the business and this has to be a top down approach with full company consultation. We have to remember that the men, sons and daughters of women going through menopause who are employed by the company may also be significantly impacted
Therefore, a well thought out policy, which provides knowledge and resources along with sign posting and support will reap the benefits of a work force who will feel heard and valued. This is where it’s important to work with the experts to ensure your policy is comprehensive and consult current members of staff.
This is why I also encourage all businesses to implement menopause champions: individuals who are happy to volunteer to be the person who help support the organisation they work for and be a point of contact for employees who need someone to talk to. Menopause champions can offer first-hand experience and they can also ensure the company implements any agreed menopause policies. They are on hand to be a listenining ear and signpost individuals to futher areas of support around menopause should they need them.
Finally, it’s not just about paperwork-consider what practical support can be offered by your HR team to support colleagues and their specific menopause symptoms. This may vary on a case by case basis but could include adaptions such as: changing shifts and flexible working (to help with brain fog, fatigue and sleep issues) allowing a change of uniform (to help wearing lighter clothes for hot flashes) and split breaks so staff can have more frequent (but shorter) breaks.
By making menopause part of the wellbeing conversations they have with their staff, implementing fair and supportive policies and taking practical steps to help employees, HR teams can ensure all women going through menopause are made to feel valued members of the workplace and boost employee productivity and work satisfaction.