Employers have a responsibility to create inclusive workplaces that support employees through all stages of life, and menopause is a huge part of life for many.

Although in the past, it has been deemed a taboo subject that shouldn’t be talked about in business, over half the population go through menopause. The workplace can either be a bridge or a barrier so it’s crucial that employers are focused on how to best support their people.

There’s no doubt progress has been made as businesses across the world realise the impact of menopause and perimenopause, and the part they play in supporting their teams. Despite this, research shows work still needs to be done.

Data from Bupa found that almost a million women have left their job because of menopausal symptoms while CIPD research shows that around one in six people (17%) have considered leaving work due to a lack of support in relation to their menopause symptoms.

Whilst it’s important for employers to support those going through menopause to avoid obvious legal risks such as discrimination, it also helps you to retain experienced and valuable team members that will benefit your business for years to come.

But before you can think about how to make sure you’re taking the right action to support those going through menopause in your workplace, you need to first understand exactly what it is and the impact it can have.


What is the impact of menopause?


Menopause is a natural stage of life that affects women in different ways. It can cause a range of both mental and physical symptoms, and whether the impact is mild or severe, temporary or long term, the effects can cause major challenges in a person’s life.

It’s more than just hot flushes and mood changes, the NHS highlights a wide variety of challenges including difficulty sleeping, problems with memory and concentration, headaches, anxiety and worry, and many more.

As an employer, you also need to be aware of perimenopause, the transitional phase leading up to menopause, which can also have significant impacts.

As well as managing the symptoms in daily life, handling them in the workplace can also lead to increased levels of stress for people. This can be because some employees don’t feel comfortable speaking up or they aren’t getting any understanding or support from their manager and colleagues.


What can employers do to support employees going through menopause?


On a practical level, there’s a number of things that you can do to support your team. Similar to other long standing health conditions, it’s crucial you’re offering sympathetic and appropriate support, whilst recognising this can be a difficult and, unfortunately still uncomfortable, topic for people to talk about.

You need to remember that every situation is different and the best way to approach it is to talk with your people in a safe and confidential setting, and listen to what they need in terms of adjustments and support.

Often, a few simple changes to the working environment can make a big difference, like providing desk fans or access to a quiet and private space. However, you also need to remember that it takes more than just practical adjustments to create an inclusive and menopause-friendly workplace.

1. Build awareness

The first step to creating a supportive work environment is to build awareness. All employees, from entry-level to CEO, need to be well-informed about how menopause can affect people in the workplace.

October is Menopause Awareness Month, and the 18th October is also World Menopause Day. These are perfect opportunities to start a conversation, build awareness and share education on the topic. However, as useful as these awareness campaigns are to get the ball rolling, you need to keep the conversation going and ensure you’re taking the necessary action all year round.

2. Create a menopause policy

Your policies are a physical representation of your commitment to supporting people in your workplace. As an employer, you need a menopause policy in place that outlines expectations, resources and the support available to those who might need it.

Like all your HR documents and people policies, your menopause policy needs to meet legal requirements, reflect your business and your values, and meet the particular needs of your workforce.

To give you guidance of all the key areas you should cover within your policy, I created the Menopause Policy Checklist that you can download for free.

And if you need any further support, my team and I are available to chat about how we can help.

3. Provide training to all employees

Training and education is how you bring your menopause policy to life. Your people need to have a clear understanding of menopause and be clear on how they can ask for help if they need it and what they can do to support their colleagues.

In particular, this means making sure that all levels of management are trained on the impact of menopause, how to have conversations with employees who are experiencing menopause and the adjustments that can be made to an employee’s role to manage any symptoms they might be feeling.

4. Be flexible

Flexibility is key when it comes to supporting your employees through menopause. It affects people differently and each person may require a certain type of support or specific adjustments to be made. It’s your responsibility to talk to your people, make sure you understand their situation and then do everything you can do as an employer to help them.

This might also include flexibility in terms of working hours or offering the option to work from home when they need it. Other common examples of adjustments include:

  • Changing working environment to be more comfortable e.g remote work, away from hot or cold spots in the office, greater access to natural light or a private area away from the noise
  • Relax rules where possible on work wear so people can dress in the most comfortable way for them
  • Allowing additional breaks, on a more regular basis
  • Assessing whether changes to workload or daily schedule will make managing symptoms and completing their job easier

From a legal point of view, you’re obligated as an employer by the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to an employee’s role or working environment if they have a condition that places them at a disadvantage when performing their role. Team members may also be entitled to make a flexible working request so it’s important you take this into consideration and plan accordingly.

5. Encourage open communication

Luckily, the subject of menopause in the workplace is gathering traction, but it’s still considered a taboo subject to talk about for many. You need to be continuously focused on creating an environment where people feel comfortable speaking up, talking about the topic of menopause, and asking for support if they need it.

Whether team members are directly affected by menopause or not, everyone in the workplace needs to be part of the conversation and have access to training and education on menopause.

For those who are impacted, you need to be having regular one-to-one meetings in a quiet place where discussions can remain confidential. Work together to identify the specific support, actions and adjustments that are needed.

Most importantly? Listen to your people. Every experience with menopause is personal. Make sure you’re doing what you can to support those in your team in the best way for them.

Taking Action

Now you have an overview of what you should be doing to support those going through menopause in the workplace, it’s time to implement and take action.

  • Do you have an inclusive, relevant and legally compliant menopause policy in place?
  • Have you taken steps to actively promote the menopause policy so that employees are aware of its existence and importance?
  • Have you provided training and education around menopause to everyone in your team?
  • Is everyone in your business aware of the support, resources and training available?
  • Have you made any necessary adjustments to the workplace to accommodate team members going through menopause?

If you need any help ensuring your workplace is menopause-friendly and that everyone in your team has access to the support they need get in touch with my team and me for a chat.

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