Frequently the terms “menopause”, “the change”, “that time of your life” are simply associated with hot flushes or flashes, night sweats and mood swings. While these are common early symptoms, many other health issues are affected such as bone health and heart health. Other symptoms such as fatigue and poor concentration can pose significant and embarrassing problems for some women, resulting in lowered confidence. Women can experience perimenopause for months or years before menopause and afterwards. Menopausal symptoms can persist after menstruation has ceased. On average symptoms persist for around 4 years but can last for as long as 12 years once menstruation has stopped.
Coping with menopausal symptoms at work can be tough and some women are, understandably, reluctant or even afraid to talk to their employer about it, particularly if they are young or male.
BUPA Research from 2019 found that nearly a million women had left the workforce over an unspecified period due to menopausal symptoms and the lack of support to help manage them.
With around 3.5 million women aged between 15 and 65 years currently in employment in the UK, women now represent nearly a half of the UK labour force. That makes menopause mainstream and as important as any other occupational health issue.
51% of the population will experience menopause. It is a normal, natural, and inevitable part of ageing. Yet for too long, too many people experiencing menopause have struggled with societal stigma, inadequate diagnosis and treatment, workplace detriment and discrimination. This is not normal, nor should we see it as inevitable.
Some women say they have to work extremely hard to overcome their perceived shortcomings due to their menopause. Others consider working part-time, despite the concern about the impact on their career, and some even think about leaving employment altogether.
The menopause is not a specific protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. But if an employee or worker is put at a disadvantage and treated less favourably because of their menopause symptoms, this could be discrimination if related to a protected characteristic, for example:
- gender reassignment
TIPS FOR EMPLOYEES:
- Talk to your GP about treatment choices
- Use technology where it can help you – setting up reminders on your phone or taking more notes
- If you have supportive work colleagues talk about your experiences with them, you may find you’re not alone. Humour can help deflect embarrassment and increase your confidence
- Look into mindfulness techniques you can practice at work and home.
- Consider lifestyle changes – could you exercise more? Stop smoking or set a revised weight goal?
TIPS FOR EMPLOYERS:
Line managers don’t need to be menopause experts!
There are some simple things which employers can do to make the menopausal symptoms women feel bearable. For example:
- A simple desk fan can help with hot flushes.
- Providing a different uniform to help with hot flushes.
- A drinks dispenser can help women stay cool.
- Providing a proper work/life balance rather than encouraging overtime can help alleviate anxiety and tiredness.
- Flexible working arrangements can also reduce stress.
- If sleep is disturbed, later start times might be helpful.
- Encourage a healthy work/life balance to avoid exacerbating menopausal symptoms and to prevent burnout.