When my employer Community recently put in place a menopause policy, I was delighted. Around the same time that I started working at Community, I had started to experience quite severe menopausal side effects. It was frightening and it was embarrassing, but worse I worried that it would affect my new job and career. On top of experiencing symptoms, I had to communicate what was happening to my new manager, which was very daunting. These feelings are very common for people experiencing menopausal side effects and talking about it can be difficult. Luckily my new manager was fantastic, but I know this is not always the case in other workplaces.
Menopause is one of those things that is not really talked about and many people don’t understand it until it happens to them or someone close to them. Some people have no problems at all. Others experience various symptoms ranging from mild to debilitating side effects which can affect all aspects of their daily lives. Also, there is still an underlying stigma about discussing menopause and it feels like only people experiencing it really talk about it. Yet over half the population of the planet go through menopause at some point in their lives, so it makes no sense to ignore it.
As I familiarised myself at Community, I got involved in the work the equalities team were doing to get menopause on the map and into the limelight. It was all very reassuring. The team were campaigning to get more information into workplaces, along with providing specialist training and an official menopause policy was being developed. It was good to know my employer was taking this issue seriously and I knew I would get support at work when I needed it.
The menopause policy we have in place at work clearly sets out the types of effects going through menopause can have on people. It gives information about organisations and advisory services, where all employees can learn more. It sets out the support and adjustments that anyone experiencing side effects can get in the workplace. Most importantly it identifies specially trained contacts for employees to talk to, assured of complete privacy and confidence, within the organisation. Advertising this policy to employees and having this easily accessible information means that everyone can educate themselves on how we support our employees, if they need a little extra help during this phase of their lives.
Without a menopause policy, many people never speak up and end up suffering in silence. They do not know what support is available to them or even how to ask for help. Unfortunately, many employers and managers do not know how to help – often they won’t have even realised the issues that can come from the menopause or that it is something their employees might need help with. Sadly, we have seen many examples of employees who have faced a lack of understanding at work. Some have even faced disciplinary processes, directly due to the effects of the menopause.
This is why getting a policy in place at your workplace is so important. It is a go-to guide to explain what menopause is and how to support your employees. This along with training key people within the organisation so that they understand how to help, is essential.
If you have not got a menopause policy within your organisation yet, then let us know and we will help you.
Jennifer Dean is an Organiser for Community’s Northern Region.
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