30th October 2018

Although out of the remit of Occupational Health to diagnose and treat, recognizing it as a symptom when managing a woman’s health and wellbeing in the workplace is something that is rarely managed properly if at all.

I recently attended a course with A.C.A.S informing people of how people who are Neuro Diverse (including autism, ADHD, dyslexia etc.) manage and excel in the workplace. A half hour presentation was given about Menopause in women and how this affects them in the early pre-clinical stages, then the stages before blood tests will reveal and formal diagnosis.

The symptoms associated with menopause can be reduced concentration, becoming emotional, depression and lack of sleep. There are 34 classic symptoms of early menopause and a woman in the pre-clinical stages, but the employee may only have one or 2 of them, yet this could affect their performance at work.

The symptom that everyone associates with Menopause is hot flushes and irritability but fatigue and sometimes panic that is experienced can affect an employee’s ability to work, or worse get them into trouble at work. Someone was amazed and appalled that when she was referred to Occupational Health for review, the Adviser said they had not got any experience of this. I had to put my hand up and say that no-one had ever been referred to me for this. I was not alone, but looking back, I have had women referred because of one or 2 symptoms but not really put two and two together. This means I was not able to plan a return to work or advise on any reasonable adjustments without a full picture.

There is a learning to be had from this; I would refer back to the GP for testing with just one or 2 symptoms rather than leave the employee unsupported and going along the HR disciplinary route rather than the medical help route.

One thing that may be a barrier to this is that I am male, the employee is clearly female and there may not be an easy way to broach the subject. The subject is very much taboo until a formal diagnosis is made. However, if I could establish an interaction, I could then signpost them to the GP for further advice and testing. Just because an employee doesn’t have all the symptoms, this doesn’t mean she’s not menopausal.

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