Supporting a Worker through the Menopause

31st March 2020

In the past, menopause hasn’t really been considered a ‘workplace issue’. Employers failed to recognise how going through the menopause affected a woman at work. Through our own experience in dealing with menopause at work, we have found that women’s health and wellbeing in the workplace is something that is rarely managed properly, if at all. This is shocking, as menopausal women are actually one of the fastest-growing demographics within the UK workforce.

That being said, within very recent times, awareness and recognition of menopause within the workplace is growing. However, the support in place for those affected is still lacking. It’s important for employers to bear in mind that whilst not all women will need support during this stage of their lives, others will, so it is important that support is in place for those that do need it. Continue reading to find out how to better support a worker going through the menopause within the workplace.

What’s the current picture…

  • 3 out of 4 women going through the menopause experience symptoms and 1 in 4 could experience serious symptoms.
  • On average, most symptoms last around 4 years from your last period. However, 1 in every 10 women experience them for up to 12 years.
  • 63% of women going through (or had been through) the menopause said that their working life had been negatively affected in some way by their symptoms.
  • 90% of the women [of those surveyed] said that their workplace offered no help to employees going through the menopause.

How menopause affects workers

Some of the key ways in which menopause affects women is through:

  • Hot flushes,
  • Difficulty sleeping, leaving a woman tired and irritable,
  • Headaches,
  • Problems with memory and concentration, and/or
  • Mood changes.

Naturally, when women are affected by some of the worse symptoms of menopause they feel less able to concentrate at work, have lower levels of job satisfaction and can show a lower commitment to their employment. Because of this, women may have higher levels of absenteeism and lowered performance within the workplace. For employers that are unaware of the effects menopause can have on an employee, this can result in wrongly identified performance issues, and in some serious cases even negative appraisals.

In a report carried out in 2018 by PSNI Police Federation for Northern Ireland, 59% of menopausal female police officers agreed or strongly agreed that their job performance has been negatively affected by their menopausal symptoms.

Employers don’t need to be experts in the field on menopause, they just need to be able to recognise the signs and provide support to those that need it. Menopause is not an illness, but it does need treating with care and sensitivity, just as you would with someone who is pregnant.

What employers can do to help

Acas has put together some really clear guidelines showing what employers can do to help employees going through the menopause, some of which we’ve summarised below. The two key points to bear in mind as an employer are:

  • Make sure that a person’s menopausal symptoms are not worsened by conditions within the workplace.
  • Make the necessary changes to help an employee better manage their symptoms when doing their job.

Some changes you could make to assist a worker going through the menopause are:

  • Controlling the temperature, and having proper ventilation within the workplace. Have desktop fans, or access to an open window and place those who need it closeby.
  • Ensure that a person’s uniform will not make them too hot, uncomfortable or worsen their skin irritation.
  • Provide a place to rest and have some time out if necessary.
  • Ensure that toilets and washrooms are easily accessible.
  • Providing cold drinking water.
  • Consider flexible, or reduced working hours if these will help a worker.

Changes should be assessed and made on a case by case basis. It’s important to have an open door, and let employees know they can bring up their concerns, and steps can be taken to better support them within the workplace. Find out more about our occupational health services, and how we can help you and your employees in the workplace.

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