Menopause in the workplace – it’s time to break the taboo
Women over 50 are the fastest-growing demographic in the workplace so menopause is very much an organisational matter. Yet many employees, both male and female, feel uncomfortable addressing the issue. It’s time to break the taboo.
– While some women go through menopause with little or no symptoms, others can suffer from low energy, stress and anxiety, palpitations, hot flushes and night sweats, difficulty sleeping, brain fog and concentration issues, mood changes, a sensitive bladder, joint and muscle pain.
– According to a recent study published by the CIPD, 59% of working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work. 30% said they have taken sick leave due to their symptoms but only 25% were honest about the real reason for their absence. Among that secretive 25%, privacy, embarrassment and unsupportive managers (in that order) were blamed for the deception.
– Of those who were affected negatively at work, 65% said they were less able to concentrate, 58% said they experienced more stress, and 52% said they felt less patient with clients and colleagues.
– In another study run by BUPA, almost one million women said they’d left a job because of menopause symptoms.
Time for action
There’s much that can be done to help companies better address this sensitive matter. The CIPD has published a very helpful guide for line managers, for example, which you can download here. For a bite-sized version of its key recommendations, please read on.
– Develop a policy to raise awareness and train all managers on the effects and symptoms of menopause.
– Educate the HR team about related employment laws.
– Offer employees an alternative person to speak to when they aren’t comfortable talking to their manager, e.g., a health and wellbeing champion.
– Make reasonable adjustments where appropriate, e,g., moving someone’s desk near a window or away from a radiator, offering flexible working, providing fans and drinking water and, to assist with memory, giving out electronic devices and diaries.
– Sensitively manage sickness absence or a dip in job performance.
Normalise the conversation
Given the potentially embarrassing symptoms, it’s not surprising that menopause isn’t talked about openly in the workplace. But if businesses want to stem the flow of experienced female talent heading for the door or calling in sick, they need to normalise the conversation and offer concrete, practical support.
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