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One million women “missing through menopause” in UK’s depleting workforce

A million women in the UK have had to change their jobs or quit working altogether because they haven’t felt supported while going through the menopause, a leading employment and inclusion specialist. Diversifying Group, has claimed.

One million women “missing through menopause” in UK’s depleting workforce

  • Menopausal exodus playing a major part in the UK’s ‘jobs vacant’ crisis
  • 13 million women are experiencing the menopause in the UK
  • Less than 6 of them million are thought to be in work
  • Potential cost of replacing menopausal employees could be £5bn
  • Number forced to leave work could rise to 2 million by 2027
  • Hidden talent pool of 350,000 women want to return to work but don’t feel they will be supported
  • Third of women said they have felt discriminated against at work because they are menopausal
  • But companies including Metro Bank are implementing positive policies

A million women in the UK have had to change their jobs or quit working altogether because they haven’t felt supported while going through the menopause, a leading employment and inclusion specialist has claimed.

And there are fears another million women will potentially take the same drastic decision in the next five years.

This menopausal exodus of experienced workers, at a time of record job vacancies, could have catastrophic consequences for the UK economy.

The cost to employers of recruiting, hiring and training a new employee – and the loss of productivity when posts aren’t filled – equates to an average of £5k each time a woman leaves employment due to experiencing the menopause. That could mean a total cost of £5bn for everyone in the UK currently not working due to the menopause.

The claims are made by employment and inclusion specialist Cynthia Davis, who has spent months interviewing and polling current and former job candidates on issues around the menopause – which she now believes is the single biggest unaddressed issue for British industry.

An estimated 13 million women(1) are perimenopausal or menopausal in the UK – but only 5.8 million(2) of them are thought to be in work.

Ms Davis estimates the number of women that have left the UK’s workforce entirely to be around 300,000 over the last five years alone – bringing the total to an estimated one million people who have had to change or quit their jobs as they felt unsupported or even discriminated against in the workplace. And many more could follow over the next five years, she says.

Ms Davis, Founder and CEO of Diversifying Group, said: I’ve been polling menopausal workers and job candidates for months now and I’ve found that less than half (42%) say their employer has policies in place to address the menopause – and only a third (32%) said they feel confident talking about their menopause experience at work.

“More alarmingly is that over a third (36%) say they have felt discriminated against at work because they are menopausal. All of this is fuelling the decision to move jobs or stop working altogether.”

Ms Davis, who at 45 years old, is going through the menopause herself, went on: “From what I’ve seen during the last five years I would say that twenty per cent of working women who are going through the menopause have had to change jobs because they’ve felt discriminated against, let down by their employers or simply unable to cope. That equates, at a conservative estimate, to around a million women who have switched jobs or stop working altogether in the UK.

“There’s no major up-to-date research in this field but the most recent government study(3) five years ago showed 25% of affected women considered resigning – and ten per cent actually doing so.

“Based on our analysis of the jobs market and all the many anecdotal accounts we hear, I think the numbers have spiralled since 2017 and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to arrive at this more realistic number of one million menopausal people either switching jobs or out of work today. It’s an unacceptable – and avoidable – figure.”

This lost workforce is having a devastating effect on UK employers who are already struggling to recruit, as Ms Davis predicts that the number of women feeling forced to leave jobs could double to more than 2 million by 2027.

The UK industries that would be the most impacted by a depleted workforce from this demographic include health and social work (accounting for 21% of all jobs held by women as of September 2021), the wholesale and retail trade (13%) and education (12%).

Ms Davis estimates that the problem she has identified has left a ‘hidden talent pool’ of around 350,000 women – or anyone who experiences menopause – who are currently not in employment but would like to return to work.

She said: “We’ve already seen a million change jobs or quit work completely, and our assessment is that more than a third of them – at least 350,000 women or trans men and nonbinary people – are keen to get back to work. That hidden talent pool could give the economy a massive boost if employers can reach it.

“The key to unlocking this talent is to offer more support and flexible working arrangements – that’s how this experienced group of professionals can be tempted back to work.”

Ms Davis added: “Employers have got much better in recent years at issues around things like ethnicity and disability – but the menopause is probably the biggest single area which still needs to be addressed. The menopause isn’t a surprise or new condition, it will affect just over half the population, so it’s hard to understand why women are still facing these issues in 2022.

Few businesses currently have specific policies in place to ensure that these staff are adequately supported – and not discriminated against in the workplace, Ms Davis points out, which could leave those firms exposed to costly legal action in future.

The number of industrial tribunal cases where the menopause is cited is still relatively low, but our analysis suggest it doubled in the last year alone…” she said “…and that should sound a significant warning to employers.”

One of the companies Ms Davis’ works with, Metro Bank plc, has taken positive action to support women and those who identify as women, during the Menopause.

In the last year, the bank, with its Women on Work (“WOW”) network has increased awareness for all colleagues on this topic.

This includes guidance for both colleagues and line managers to fully support those colleagues feeling the impacts of menopausal symptoms and offers educational learn lists for all colleagues (male and female).

Colleagues experiencing the menopause are further supported by monthly Menopause Cafes, with Menopause Champions offering individual peer support, when requested.

Metro Bank has normalised conversations by implementing changes to their People system to include a specific ‘Menopause related symptoms’ absence code.  Additionally, via the bank’s Rewards and Benefits offering, colleagues have access to medical experts, via a free Menopause support app.

Judith Lowe, Chair of Metro Bank’s Women on Work network, said: One big issue for employers is that in some cases, women feel unable to do their jobs or are overwhelmed by having to cope with work and their menopausal symptoms and that results in some women giving up the jobs they have worked their whole career for; that shouldn’t be the only option.

“This is about making sure that we support our colleagues through this time in their lives and that we don’t lose the incredible talent and the experience we have in the bank because of an issue that every woman will go through.”

“Through the increased awareness and the support initiatives now in place, we have enabled colleagues and their line managers to speak only and honestly so that we can understand the impact menopause is having on our colleagues and properly support them.”

Metro Bank proudly announced in May 2022 they had signed up to the Menopause Workplace Pledge.

Ms Davis’ said of her own experience: “As a senior leader, I have lived experience of how the menopause can affect your working day. Physical symptoms such as hot flushes, brain fog, increased anxiety and inability to sleep can be isolating.

“If your colleagues and employer are not understanding of your experience, you can be perceived as unprofessional or weak. I know of cases where wearing looser clothes and having shorter hair to deal with hot flushes was viewed negatively by employers.

“Fortunately, as CEO I can throw the rule book out and create a culture where people can be open with their experiences of the menopause have their needs accommodated. But sadly, many organisations still have a long way to go.”

Diversifying Group is a leading Diversity & Inclusion Services organisation providing a blend of Talent Attraction, Executive Search, Recruitment Marketing, Events, Training and Consultancy Services to support organisations on their journey to inclusive working. They share with clients the tools, insights and audience to increase diversity in workplaces across the UK and make tangible progress for positive social change.

References:

  1. https://www.nuffieldhealth.com/article/not-just-womens-issues-supporting-menopause-needs-in-the-workplace
  2. https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/article/1743121/one-million-women-could-quit-due-lack-menopause-support#:~:text=Koru%20Kids%20estimates%20there%20are,quit%20because%20of%20their%20symptoms
  3. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/menopause-transition-effects-on-womens-economic-participation

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