Two-thirds (63%) of women over 45 say that their working life has been negatively affected by the menopause¹. Yet, for too long, this phase of life that every woman goes through has been ignored, especially in the workplace.
With so little open discussion on the topic, it is no wonder that managers might feel unqualified or nervous to address it. In fact, recent research by the CIPD highlights the scale of the issue². The study found that 30% of women had taken sick leave due to their menopause symptoms. In addition, only a quarter felt able to tell their manager the real reason for their absence, highlighting the taboo facing many women in work.
The menopause should be treated just like any other health concern that affects the workforce and acknowledged in the same way. But for employers, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to supporting employees that are struggling.
We’ve outlined three things you can do in your organisation to begin supporting women in your organisation going through the menopause.
- Create a company policy
Having a formal menopause policy is a good place to start. This signals to all employees that you are taking the topic seriously. It is a something that affects everyone, not just those women going through it. If everyone is going to be comfortable talking about the topic, they need to know the facts. Men must be included in this conversation if they are going to offer understanding and support to their colleagues effectively. At some stage, all of them will have family or friends going through the menopause, so the more the know, the better able they will be to help them at home and in work.
If you don’t have a menopause policy at your organisation, we’ve developed a template Menopause Policy Document that you can adapt to your own company policies. You can download this along with our Menopause Policy Guide, by clicking here.
- Champion the cause
Creating a policy is great, but will be of little value if no one is aware that it exists or uses it. Communicating this policy is key. Everyone needs to be aware of it and encouraged to discuss it. This is a very personal issue, that many will want to keep private, so it’s important they know where to go for more information if they need it without having to ask.
As part of this process, you could consider creating a menopause champion. They would be responsible for helping to spread awareness and understanding of the menopause and be a ‘safe’ person for employees to approach if they have questions or need help. Think about how they can be approached in a discreet way to protect privacy. Alternatively, you could work with an external partner that offers menopause support to your employees in a confidential and safe space. This would take the pressure off your teams internally and provide your staff with experienced support and guidance. However, there are additional costs to consider when appointing a benefits partner.
- Workplace adjustments
Think about anything you could change in the workplace to make those going through the menopause more comfortable. This can be anything from providing fans to using breathable fabrics for uniforms, in order to help keep people cooler. Flexible working can also be useful, allowing people to work remotely on days they find particularly hard. Lots of companies are beginning to implement new measures that take into account health-related challenges at work, allowing all staff to adopt flexible working during times of stress. It could be worth considering how these might fit into your policies for those struggling with menopausal symptoms.
One of the best ways to identify and understand how you can support your employees could be to simply ask them through a confidential internal survey. Those that are going through the menopause are likely to be the experts on what they need to feel supported and getting their feedback will help them to feel heard and included by their employer.