Menopause is not a new concept for women. It is a fact of life that every person who menstruates has to face at some point. Yet it is a subject that is still largely misunderstood, underestimated – even ignored.
This is starting to change. Awareness is being drawn to menopause symptoms and the ways they affect people’s lives. And as awareness increases, so does the support available.
One key area that is beginning to offer more support is the workplace, and this support is vital. Most people spend such a large amount of time in the workplace, it can make a big difference to the whole experience if they are supported there properly.
Offering support won’t just benefit your employees either – as we explored in our post on the impact that menopause can have in your workplace, it can have big benefits for your company too.
But wanting to offer support and knowing how to do so are two very different things, so we’ve put together this post to share some much-needed guidance.
We’ll cover your legal responsibilities, and the protections enshrined in employment law and also advice on how everyone from business owners to line managers to colleagues can support team members who are experiencing menopausal symptoms.
While there are plenty of benefits you can enjoy from supporting people going through menopause (including higher staff retention and lower sickness absence) you also have a legal responsibility under the Equality Act 2010 as well as the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974.
Under the Health and Safety At Work Act, you are expected to minimise the physical and mental health risks to your employees – and this includes workers experiencing menopause. Not accounting for menopause symptoms can leave you in breach of your duties as an employer.
In January 2023 there was a move to add menopause as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
On this occasion, the government decided against adding it – but only because they believed it was already covered by other characteristics such as gender and age discrimination. It is even covered by disability discrimination in some areas.
This means it is illegal to discriminate against someone going through menopause or struggling with menopausal symptoms, but that is under pre-existing laws.
Acas has put together some really clear guidelines showing what employers can do to help employees going through menopause. The two key points they highlighted are:
Any number of reasonable adjustments can help with this. Finding the right ones for your workplace will depend on your industry, working conditions and even the size of your business.
Not all options will work for every business and only you can decide which will work for you. Some suggestions can also be modified to fit your business – the task is to do what you can.
Remote working is a fantastic option for menopausal women. Some symptoms can create a sense of self-consciousness or discomfort that affects the sufferer’s ability to work, particularly around other people. Remote working lowers (or even removes) that self-consciousness.
Flexible working times have the same benefits. Whether this means earlier or later start or finish times, or changing the length or spacing of breaks, it will allow employees to be at their most productive.
It also means granting sickness absence requests more readily.
Menopause symptoms can be highly unpredictable. The transition affects everybody differently, and the severity of symptoms can vary from day to day. The more flexibility and support you can give your employees the better they will be able to cope.
If your employees can’t work from home, look at adapting working conditions inside the workplace.
Offer methods of cooling down, including opening windows, fans and access to cold water to make hot flushes a little more bearable.
If remote working isn’t an option, offer a private space for use when symptoms require it. This space should be cool, relaxing and away from people with good ventilation. This will help with physical symptoms but also a place to decompress when mental symptoms are becoming a pressure.
Let employees set up their working environment in a way they feel comfortable, allowing for personal adjustments wherever possible. Feelings of comfort will reduce stress and improve productivity.
Many uniforms are made of cheap materials that can aggravate skin sensitivities. They also tend to offer less ventilation. This is often necessary to keep the costs of the uniform down but can be a problem for those experiencing menopausal symptoms – such as sensitive skin or hot flushes.
If possible, remove the need to wear the uniform. Agree on a more comfortable alternative that looks similar or make another temporary concession.
If the uniform is necessary for health and safety reasons, then look at reducing the time your employees are expected to wear them.
You should also follow our advice for avoiding workplace skin conditions and dermatitis.
These will depend on the specifics of a role, but talk to employees to pinpoint any tasks they might be struggling with. Can these be adapted so they are easier to tackle while struggling with symptoms?
If they can’t be adapted could they be swapped to someone else when necessary? This might sound disruptive, but different tasks appeal to different people and you may find it easier to re-delegate than you think.
Even without suffering specific mental health symptoms, many people will see a negative impact on their mental health as a result of menopause.
Signposting your employees towards services that can help them will make this easier to work through. This could be services affiliated with or provided by your company, or those outside of it.
If you want to make sure your team get all the support they need, then getting external help will bring in the experience and specialist knowledge you need. Here at DBOCC we can provide a Health and Wellbeing Programme that includes health assessments and tailored advice to help keep your team feeling their best, throughout their working lives.
One of the best ways you can support menopausal women in your workplace is by creating a menopause policy. It makes sure employees who are experiencing menopause know exactly what is expected of them as well as what they can expect from you. As well as increasing awareness it helps build trust with your staff and helps them feel able to talk to you about their experiences.
If you really want to support women experiencing menopause, then building out a workplace menopause policy is vital.
It makes sure employees who are experiencing menopause know exactly what is expected of them as well as what they can expect from you. It increases awareness and builds trust with your staff so they feel able to talk to you about their experiences.
A useful menopause policy should include:
When it covers all these points, a menopause policy will help your staff feel supported as well as clear on exactly what help you can offer.
The Menopause Workplace Pledge is an initiative started by the Wellbeing of Women organisation. It shows an employer is committed to making their workplace a supportive and understanding place for employees experiencing menopause.
If you want your staff to know that you are committed to supporting them as they go through menopause, signing the pledge is a great way of demonstrating it. You will be joining a large group of employers that includes the BBC, the Civil Service, Royal Mail and Sainsbury’s.
Another important part of supporting menopausal women is raising awareness about it.
As we mentioned above, menopause still has something of a stigma attached. People just don’t talk about it. Opening up conversations in your workplace and increasing awareness are a vital part of supporting your staff. Here are some straightforward ways to do so:
You should also make sure HR teams and line managers have sufficient specialised training and knowledge to make sure employees feel comfortable asking for support when necessary.
With so many women suffering menopausal symptoms during their lifetime, this major life transition is going to impact your workplace at some point. Supporting your team, when this happens is the best way to make sure this impact isn’t a negative one.
If you think you need extra help with supporting your staff, our occupational health team is here for you. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help.
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