Finally the menopause is becoming an openly discussed fact of life! This is a really positive shift and businesses with good workplace cultures are embracing the conversation, seeing it as an opportunity to improve the working lives of a significant proportion of their workforce.
Change is long-overdue. All women experience the menopause, although symptoms vary considerably. The actual menopause usually takes place between the ages of 45 – 55 – a fast growing demographic in the UK workforce. The perimenopause can begin much earlier and often brings with it challenging symptoms including lack of energy, ‘brain fog’ and poor sleep.
In 2019 Bupa found that almost one million women left a job because of menopause symptoms – a huge drain of talent and experience for UK businesses.
Therefore (aside from the potentially life-changing improvement in women’s wellbeing at this stage of life!) the scope for increased productivity, career fulfilment and the possibility of a happier, longer working life is vast.
How employers can support women through the menopause is going to be a key topic in HR this year and one we’ll no doubt return to, but for now here’s our approachable set-by-step guide for business owners and managers keen to engage with the issue.
- Educate yourself!
The fact is that the menopause impacts everyone during the course of their lives, regardless of gender or age. Therefore everyone, but especially team leaders or anyone involved in HR, should have an understanding of what it is and the potential impacts it can have on mental and physical health.
Despite menopause being discussed more there is still a stigma around it. Talking to male colleagues or younger women with no understanding of what experiencing the menopause actually means can cause embarrassment, so education is crucial. This can be done through online learning platforms, internal webinars and campaigns.
- Break the taboo
There are many misconceptions about the menopause (that it’s all about hot flushes for example) and archaic gender stereotyping (how many women will have been described as ‘bloody difficult’ by colleagues at this time of life?) This piece by Caitlin Moran for The Times in 2020 is a great example of women reclaiming the conversation about their own bodies.
Find ways to open the topic of the menopause across the organisation. Don’t put anyone on the spot or force the issue in the wrong context, but refer to menopause support regularly in your internal comms and show yourself ready to actively listen whenever the topic arises. Our blog on listening to employee voice may be a useful read.
- Identify the impact
Once you’re informed and openly engaging with the issue, try to identify the impact it’s having on your workforce and therefore your business or organisation.
A good way of doing this could be conducting a survey or offering one-to-one interviews to understand individual experiences.
- Create support systems
As with any mental or physical health issue, employers have a responsibility to put support systems in place. These should include regular formal and informal contact (especially important with remote working) in an environment where honest discussion can take place.
Having a clear line management structure and a record of sick leave are also vital in spotting emerging issues.
You may find this blog about supporting good mental health useful.
- Identify adjustments
From these regular conversations you may be able to identify things that would help the women in your workforce to more effectively manage their menopause symptoms. Improved ventilation, regular breaks, occupational therapy sessions and increased job flexibility are all good tools to have to hand.
Finally, many businesses would benefit from having a menopause policy created in consultation with their workforce and regularly revisited in training. If you’d like to discuss this with our expert HR team, why not get in touch?