Menopause is nothing new for women, but our awareness and recognition of it within the workplace is growing. Whilst menopause generally occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55, around 1 in 100 women experience the menopause before the age of 40. Baring that in mind, have you ever thought about how many women in full-time work are going through the menopause? It’s increasingly important for employers to recognise menopause in women, and be able to provide any support and workplace adjustments if necessary. Whilst not all women will require support in this stage of their lives, others will do, and it’s important employers are there for those that need it.
The menopause occurs when a woman stops having periods and is therefore no longer able to have a baby naturally. Hormones and emotions change as women transition from one phase of life to the next. Going through the menopause is a natural part of getting older, and on average women will reach this stage around the age of 51. However, some women can go through premature menopause earlier in their life. It’s important to remember that just because a woman isn’t in her early 50s, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t going through the menopause.
Most women will experience symptoms going through the menopause, however, the duration and intensity of these symptoms differ for everyone. Initial symptoms may appear months, or even years, before the last period. On average, most symptoms last around 4 years from your last period. However, 1 in every 10 women experiences them for up to 12 years [source].
Some of the key menopause symptoms are:
With all of these emotional and physical symptoms in play, it’s natural for menopause to have an impact on a woman’s working life. However, menopause is quite a taboo subject, especially in the workplace. Not only does this mean many women do not get the support they need, but employers fail to recognise the symptoms and understand what is going on.
In our own learnings and investigations of the menopause, we’ve found that sometimes symptoms aren’t associated with the menopause. If a woman is failing to concentrate and seems demotivated, it doesn’t mean that she is a poor worker, but she is perhaps going through the menopause and needs some additional support. Employers don’t need to be menopause experts, but simply to be aware of the symptoms and effects of the menopause.
As well as providing emotional support, and an open-door culture where employees can discuss their feelings and capabilities, there are physical adjustments that can be made in the workplace, as recommended by The Faculty of Occupational Medicine’s (FOM). Some of these adjustments include:
To better support women going through the menopause in the workplace, it’s important that barriers around talking about the subject openly are broken down. It’s also important to make sure the subject is treated sensitively and approached in a way to make a woman feel as comfortable as possible. The majority of women are unwilling to disclose menopause-related health problems to line managers, particularly when they are men or younger than them [source]. Help to make the conversation as easy as possible, using someone who can be trusted and whom the woman will feel comfortable talking to.
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