I would like to speak directly and in solidarity to any woman reading this who is struggling at work because of their menopausal symptoms, and to all the men out there supporting and championing women through this stage of their lives.
I want you to know that you’re not alone. Your union, Community, is here to help and support you. We have expertly trained advisors who understand both how difficult this can be to talk about and what avenues of help are available to support you. Please call our Member Service Centre on 0800 389 6332, for support and constructive advice. If your call is answered by a man and you’d would prefer to speak to a woman, mention this to the advisor and they will be able to facilitate.
Employers have a duty of care to ensure your health and wellbeing at work. This can come in many forms and includes providing support to women through their menopause. It is important to understand that everyone is different, and women will experience the menopause in many different ways.
In my experience supporting women through the menopause, along with the most common side effects such as hot flushes, many women encounter real difficulties at work when they suffer with severe symptoms such as anxiety, concentration issues (brain fog) and lack of confidence. These are all common side effects, and they can have a serious impact on your ability to remain in work during the menopausal years.
We’re faced with a crisis, both for women and for employers, if we don’t start to understand this and to change the face of the workplace so that women can be supported through this very normal time of their lives. The average age of the menopause is 51, so that means that a woman going through the menopause is likely to do this at the time of their life when they have a wealth of experience and skills to offer to an employer.
But sadly, we know that many women leave work during this time as they are not given the correct support and understanding to help them. When this happens and a woman leaves her employment, the employer loses a valuable asset, and the woman either loses her career prematurely or goes to another employer that has the right support in place, taking her skills and experience with her.
What can employers do to support women experiencing menopausal symptoms that are affecting them at work?
Employers are encouraged to offer awareness and support to their employees, and one way of doing this is to provide ‘internal organisational guidance’. This should do the following:
- Provide information about the menopause and the symptoms and experiences that women may have across the different menopausal phases, including difficulties at work, coping strategies and an acknowledgement that women may not feel comfortable talking about their menopause, particularly with male and younger line managers.
- Raise awareness – not just to women going through the menopause, but for all staff, including line managers who have the responsibility to provide support for the health and wellbeing of their teams at work.
- Guidance on how to have a conversation with a member of staff going through the menopause and training on how to support employees experiencing menopausal symptoms.
- Legal information around the responsibilities the organisation needs to meet around the menopause. For example, the menopause is likely be covered under protected characteristics of sex, age and disability in the Equality Act, or ‘the duty of care’ that employers must ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff according to the Health and Safety at Work Act.
One way your employer can meet all these objectives is to put in place a menopause policy, raise awareness about this policy to all staff and provide training to line managers on how to support staff experiencing menopausal symptoms.
In February, Zurich Insurance launched its menopause policy for employees, which includes working hours flexibility. We’d like to see other organisations following suit.
What can you do to ensure you have the right support available at work to help women going through the menopause?
Find out if you have a menopause policy in place at work. If you don’t, speak to your employer about putting one in place. You can see our model menopause policy for guidance, along with our digital guide on the menopause, how it affects women and what the law says, here. You can also find out about Community’s work with Carolyn Harris MP on the #MenopauseRevolution.
You can read more about my personal experience of having a workplace menopause policy here.
If you would like help approaching your employer, please let us know.
If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0800 389 6332.