How does your firm support menopausal women?
Imagine for a minute, you are exhausted. You had four hours of sleep last night, Then, an intense heat rises, burning through your body. It moves towards your head and bursts into a shiny glow. A wave of panic strikes as your heart rate increases and thoughts whizz through your mind. You wonder if any of your work colleagues have noticed your red face. How can you carry on in what suddenly feels like a cramped, hot, stressful office? You feel so uncomfortable in your workplace that you just want to go home.
As the population ages, there is an increase in the number of women experiencing the menopause whilst in the workplace, and there is a growing awareness that firms could do more to support them. Menopausal symptoms are not only debilitating, but also have a far-reaching impact on a woman’s work performance and her ability to go for a promotion – as well as her family life and to society. In the workplace many women feel unsupported and that the subject is taboo. They suffer and do so in silence.
Menopause statistics in the workplace
New research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD), the professional body of HR, from a study of 1,409 women experiencing menopause symptoms shows:-
- Three out of five (59%) working women between the ages 45-55 who experience menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on their work.
- The most common symptoms reported by women are hot flushes (72%), sleep disturbances (64%) and night sweats (58%). Psychological issues (56%), such as mood swings, anxiety and memory loss were also widely reported.
- 30% said they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms, but only a quarter of them felt able to tell their manager.
- Nearly two-thirds (65%) said they were less able to concentrate.
- More than half (58%) said they experienced more stress.
- More than half (52%) said they felt less patient with clients and colleagues.
- Privacy (45%) was the number one consideration for women choosing not to disclose. A third (34%) said embarrassment prevented them from saying why they had to take time off and another 32% said an unsupportive manager was the reason.
How can firms provide better support?
- Employers should provide a Health and Wellbeing policy which includes an individual risk assessment that takes into account the steps the firm may take to support a woman going through the menopause.
- Practical suggestions could be temperature control (providing a fan); reducing stress on employees by taking into account long commutes, long hours and unrealistic overtime; providing the flexibility to work from home.
- The firm should provide training and development for line managers and senior leaders to promote awareness of the symptoms some women could be experiencing. It could be open to the whole workforce to discuss issues surrounding the menopause. Individual women who are happy to engage on this subject could be invited to give their experiences.
- A firm can join a workplace insurance package which provides access to suitable treatments such as Acupuncture, which has solid research into the positive effects.
- A wellbeing day could be organised once a month, where a massage therapist or other practitioner comes to the office.
In larger firms a chill-out room and gym could be considered.
A firm that provides support for women going through the menopause will benefit from increased productivity and loyalty, lower sickness rates and the retention of valuable employees. According to the Equality Act 2010, employers have a legal responsibility to support women by ensuring working conditions don’t exacerbate symptoms, along with protecting employees from discrimination. It is time that the menopause was recognised and supported in the workplace.
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Rebecca Geanty Lic.Ac. BSc (Hons) MBAcC
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