menopause at work

8 ways to support working women going through the menopause Posted by Justine Clarabut on 26 September, 2019

Menopause is still such a taboo subject with a fair amount of negative stigma surrounding it. It is a time of life that many women have not prepared for. It is not talked about. Women are supposed to manage and carry on regardless of the physical, mental and emotional effects that this time of life delivers.

The menopause is a naturally occurring stage of a woman’s life. It happens typically between the ages of 45 and 55, although it can occur to women in their 60s. Around 1 in 100 women under 40 go through the menopause prematurely. Women going through the change will experience it differently with varying degrees of symptoms. Insomnia, hot flushes, low mood, headaches, sensitive skin, anxiety, erratic periods, poor concentration and lack of confidence are just some of the symptoms that women may experience. One of the hardest parts of the menopause is that there is no clear start or finish. There is no definitive timescale that women will experience the unpleasant effects that the menopause presents.

Menopause in the workplace

Increased rates of employment among women aged 50 and above mean more working women than ever before will experience the menopause. The majority of these women will experience menopausal related symptoms that could affect the quality of their work and significantly impact on their working life.

Interestingly though, The Faculty of Occupational Medicine found that the majority of women were unwilling to disclose menopausal related health problems to their managers. Due to the negativity and stigma around menopause, women can feel embarrassed believing that it undermines their professional image.

Dr Richard Heron, FOM’s President: “At the request of the Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Faculty of Occupational Medicine was pleased to lend its support and produce guidelines on menopause in the workplace. This is often a hidden health concern of working women, and it is so important that workers of all ages are better informed about how to confidently manage health issues such as this in their workplaces.”

Legally, employers have a responsibility and duty of care to their employees. They must abide by relevant health & safety and employment law. Employees’ general wellbeing is about how they feel and function on an individual and social level, both at home and at work. Menopause can affect a woman’s general sense of wellbeing and it is time for workplaces to recognise this.

The British Menopause Society reported that 75% of women going through the menopause caused them to change their life. Over 50% said it had a negative impact on their lives. The findings revealed the need for greater support for women experiencing the menopause across the UK. Read more about results here.

We’ve put together some very simple steps that employers can take to help smooth the path of this challenging stage of a woman’s life.

8 ways that workplaces can support women going through this transitional change in their lives – working through the menopause.

  1. Raise awareness to help reduce the stigma surrounding menopause. Help to make menopause an ok subject to talk about. Show your support by doing something on World Menopause Day on 18th October.
  2. Educational and informative workshops. Change organisation cultures by helping managers and staff understand the debilitating effects that the menopause can have on women. Give them the tools and support they need to care and support their staff and colleagues.
  3. Review the working environment: Many menopausal women experience hot flushes which cannot be controlled. Working in a cool and well-ventilated environment will help reduce these symptoms. Mini desktop fans that can be plugged into a computer are a great solution and doesn’t affect other staff.
  4. Flexible working hours. Poor sleep is another symptom of the menopause. Offering flexible working hours or shift changes may assist with managing extreme tiredness.
  5. Cold drinking water. Having access to cold drinking water is a positive for all staff but is particularly soothing for menopausal symptoms.
  6. Correct postural seating. Making sure that seating is comfortable and supportive will help with aches and pains.
  7. Uniforms. Provide uniforms made of natural fabrics with a looser fit as this will help with hot flushes and sensitive skin.
  8. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) Having a good EAP in place offers employees invaluable confidential support in times of need. It saves management time and can help to reduce sickness absence.
References and further reading:

Guidance on menopause and the workplace and infographic