Recently there has been a surge of discussion around the impact of the menopause in the workplace. Two parliamentary inquiries have taken place this year to investigate discrimination and bring about reform. In addition, employers have been urged by the charity Wellbeing of Women to take the ‘Menopause Workplace Pledge’ to increase understanding, support, and training.
How Can The Menopause Affect Women In The Workplace?
The menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45-55 and is a natural part of ageing due to a decline in oestrogen. Three quarters of women experience symptoms with one in four experiencing severe symptoms. Symptoms have been found to constitute a disability for employment law purposes by tribunals. The following symptoms can have a significant impact on women’s performance and attendance at work:
- Poor concentration and confusion
- Insomnia and night sweats
- Headaches and muscle aches
- Hot flushes
- Memory loss
- Depression and anxiety
- Urinary problems
BUPA and the CIPD found that 3 out of 5 menopausal women were negatively affected at work and almost a million women in the UK resigned from their jobs because of menopausal symptoms.
Female workers in the menopausal age group are likely to be in management roles which will impact the gender distribution in these roles and increase the gender pay gap.
Not only that but businesses will experience a negative impact in productivity as they lose women at the peak of their experience.
Are Women Experiencing Discrimination In The Workplace Due To The Menopause?
Women should be protected from discrimination due to menopausal symptoms under the Equality Act 2010 as age, sex and disability are all covered. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 provides for safe working which includes working conditions when experiencing menopausal symptoms.
However recent tribunals have shown women are still experiencing discrimination due to menopausal symptoms. The number of tribunals involving the menopause has tripled in the last 3 years.
A poll of 2,000 female employees by Benenden Health found that of the workers who had suffered ill health due to the menopause, 13% had to go through a disciplinary procedure.
Menopause In The Workplace: Top 10 Tips For Employers
- Occupational health advice should be sought to determine whether an affected worker is disabled.
- Employers should make reasonable adjustments in the workplace where symptoms have been found to impact their work. This could include changes to the temperature and ventilation of the workplace or a private area in the office.
- Menopausal symptoms should be considered if the employee’s performance and attendance are impacted.
- Managers should take a sensitive approach to avoid further embarrassment to the employee and take care not to trivialise symptoms during discussions.
- Guidance for carrying out sensitive discussions around the menopause can be found in the CIPD’s ‘A Guide to Managing Menopause at Work: Guidance for Line Managers’.
- Employers should have a menopause policy to inform all members of staff throughout their organisation of the correct procedures.
- Support should be offered to staff when they suffer ill-health due to menopausal symptoms. This could include mental health support for anxiety or depression, or flexible hours to mitigate the impact of insomnia and night sweats.
- Leaders can reduce stigma by normalising discussions surrounding the menopause in the workplace.
- Employers are encouraged to take the ‘Menopause Workplace Pledge’.
- Organisations should create an inclusive working environment where all employees are treated fairly.
When this highly experienced age range of women are supported, organisations will experience less disciplinary actions and a reduced level of staff turnover. A positive menopause policy can have a clear impact on workers wellbeing and business performance, as well as the company culture. For organisations that implement support for employees suffering with the menopause in the workplace, the benefits are clear.