The last couple of years has shown a real shift in people’s attitude towards talking about the menopause and breaking down the taboos that surround it. As we are a team of predominantly women at The HR Consultants (poor, poor Tom…), this change in perception is something we find ourselves talking about quite a bit lately, as ultimately it’s something that will impact on all of us, either directly or indirectly, at some point in our lifetime.
We are also seeing an increased interest in this topic from our clients, some of whom are taking the step of introducing specific policies around how they will support employees who are impacted by the effects of the menopause.
There’s a wealth of information out there, but in our usual straight-talking style, here’s some of the need-to-know information.
What is menopause exactly?
Menopause is a biological stage in most women’s lives (including those assigned female at birth) which signifies the end of being able to conceive a child and the end of their periods. During this time, those impacted will experience significant hormonal changes and the symptoms associated with this can vary enormously from person to person in both range and severity. Whilst menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45-55 and lasts 4-8 years (this can also vary greatly), the symptoms can start several years before it actually takes place, this is known as peri-menopause.
Some of the symptoms associated with menopause and peri-menopause include hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, dizziness, fatigue, memory loss, depression, headaches, UTIs, joint stiffness, reduced concentration, sleeping difficulties, loss of confidence, and heavy periods. People suffering the effects of menopause can experience a few or many of these symptoms, and whilst for some people, they are relatively mild, for others they can be severe – even debilitating – and seriously impact their day-to-day lives at home and at work.
Why would I want to consider a menopause policy?
A recent report published by the Fawcett Society in connection with Channel 4, found that 10% of the 4,000 women they surveyed reported that they had left a job due to symptoms of menopause.
When you take into account that over half of the UK population will be directly impacted by menopause; and in light of an ongoing skills shortage, the potential loss of talent from this demographic is staggering… and avoidable.
We all know that having a policy in place isn’t a fix-all, however, it does say a number of things about your organisation – namely that this isn’t a topic that is out-of-bounds (as it has been for such a long time); that you are approachable, educated on the issues which may affect your team, and perhaps most importantly, open to discussing and supporting the needs of your employees whatever their stage of life.
In addition, a policy can give practical advice and guidance to both your managers and employees who may be tackling issues related to the menopause both in terms of what support may be available, and potential solutions to implement. With calls to consider making menopause a protected characteristic in its own right (and therefore protected under the Equality Act), the need to consider how adjustments can be made to support continued employment is all the more important.
How can I support employees affected by menopause at work?
There are many practical steps that can be taken to support employees affected by menopause, but the most important one is, perhaps unsurprisingly, to listen to and support their individual needs. The effects of menopause are so wide-ranging, this definitely isn’t a one-size fits all approach.
Some practical solutions to consider include:
- Introducing flexible working (or accepting specific flexible working requests) to help with symptom management
- Adjustments to uniforms or flexibility within dress codes
- Ease of access to fresh drinking water, washroom facilities and temperature controls
- The provision of equipment and working patterns to optimise concentration levels
- Regular one-to-ones and/or assistance with work planning
- Counselling services, such as via an Employee Assistance Programme
This is by no means an exhaustive list, the key is in being open and approachable to your team so that they are able to talk to you about issues they may be facing (whether the menopause or anything else) and work with you to identify solutions so that they can remain happy and productive at work.
Where can I find out more information?
There are many resources out there for further information on menopause, and the help and support available. Some of these include:
- The NHS website has some good and clear information about menopause.
- Menopause Matters provides information about menopause, its symptoms and treatment options.
- The Daisy Network Charity provides support for people experiencing premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.
- The Menopause Café provides information about events for people to get together and discuss menopause.
If you would like to find out more about introducing a Menopause Policy into your business, or any other policy for that matter, get in touch with us today.