Menopause can be a challenging time and bring with it unexpected changes to the body that affect an individual’s daily life. Some of these changes include:
- Hot flashes
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes.
These are only a handful and everyone will experience them with varying degrees of severity.
Whilst the average age for menopause is 51, there may well be a transitional stage that starts earlier than that and it may extend beyond that age. Statistics produced by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggests that there are circa 4,357,000 working women aged 50-64 in the UK who may be affected by menopause.
Research conducted by the ONS, in conjunction with Health and Her surveyed 1,000 women over the age of 50. The results were that:
- Almost a third of the survey took time off to help them relieve the symptoms. This equates to the UK ‘losing’ out on 14 million working days
- Half of those individuals then worked in their own time to make up the ‘lost’ time which means circa 2 million women are working in their own time because of something beyond their control.
Additional research in March 2019 suggested that an astonishing 370,000 women admitted to either leaving or considering leaving their career in light of the adversities that they faced going through menopause in the workplace.
Commentators have stated that these individuals are the “fastest growing economically active group” and are by no means a small group. However, they are also the most likely to be affected by menopause.
It seems to us then that changes need to be made to the working environment to ensure that your workforce, who fall into this category of people, do not become one of the statistics to leave work because of the adversities they face. To this end, we are in agreement with Julie Dennis a Menopause at work trainer from Health and Her who suggests that workplaces need:
- A better understanding of the subject – this could come through the development of menopause policies/guidance to assist and guide people when dealing with menopause in the workplace
- To open up the conversation – this can be achieved through expert-led workshops for female employees on how to handle menopause symptoms at work (and at home for a holistic approach). Alternatives could be for regular ‘menopause socials’ as Kate Bache, the Co-Founder of Health and Her commented that the research concluded that only a fraction of women suffering the difficulties of menopause will actually speak with their employers about their symptoms
- Elect champions and ambassadors to lead the change.
Other simple strategies will also go a long way to ensuring the wellbeing of your staff, such as:
- Having ancillary equipment such as fans or heaters
- Ensuring good ventilation
- Position workstations near toilets
- Having the necessary and appropriate sanitary disposal bins
- Having feminine hygiene products
- Possibly considering female-only showers.
We appreciate that not all of the above can be achieved in every workplace and so, if nothing else, we suggest the first and arguably the most beneficial step is to open the conversation and listen to your staff. By putting in place these small changes you may be able to ensure you:
- Comply with your duty to protect the health and wellbeing of your workforce
- Avoid sex, age, harassment and/or disability discrimination claims
- Avoid the loss of talent, knowledge and experience of your current workforce
- Avoid incurring additional costs in replacing employees. In 2014 it was estimated that to replace an employee it would cost circa £30,000.
For more information, check out this article from the HR Director: Menopause costs UK economy 14 million working days per year.