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Menopause: The agenda is changing

Alaana Woods, Commercial Director - Bupa Health Clinics

I first started talking about menopause in the workplace three years ago. At that time, it was a taboo subject, where many organisations hadn’t considered the impact it was having on their workforce.

Fast forward three years and the conversation has moved on significantly, largely thanks to a number of high-profile campaigns and celebrities opening up about their own experiences. Menopause support is now included in gender diversity programmes and is more openly talked about within organisations.

There’s increasing political and government focus in this space too. Earlier this year, the Department for Health and Social care launched a call for evidence into Women’s Health. At present, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee are holding inquiry into the treatment of menopausal women at work and how Government policies and workplace practices can provide better support for women.

However, while the agenda is changing there is always more to be done. Women’s health must move beyond a tick box exercise. Companies who don’t take action face the prospect of losing valuable experience and talent.

We need businesses to start providing a framework of support for women. Earlier this year, we surveyed over 1,000 women experiencing the menopause and found that a third were embarrassed to talk about their symptoms, with partners (40%), GPs (30%) and their employer (34%). We also know that almost a million women have left their job because of menopausal symptoms.

Education for both employees and managers is the key to normalising conversations and creating cultures where women have the confidence to speak up about how they’re feeling. Access to support and services is also important; as women’s health is often treated in a primary care setting, easy access to trained GPs or nurses through helplines and health services can make a real difference.

The charity Wellbeing of Women, has launched a Menopause in the Workplace pledge for organisations and we’re so proud to be one of the first signatories and a sponsor. Plus, we’re donating 5% of every menopause plan sold in our health clinics to the charity to help fund vital research into women’s health. I’m delighted that we’re working together to drive this agenda forward.

The pledge commits businesses to:

  1. Recognise that the menopause can be an issue in the workplace and women need support
  2. Talk openly, positively and respectfully about the menopause
  3. Commit to actively support and inform employees affected by the menopause

Recognising, talking openly and committing to supporting and informing employees is the key to creating a culture where taboos are broken down, making it ok to talk and get the support you need. This is so essential for women experiencing menopause, and organisations will reap the benefits of having an engaged and productive workforce.

For organisations that aren’t taking these steps, there has been a rise in women taking employers to court citing menopause as proof of unfair dismissal and discrimination. According to the latest UK data, over the last four years the amount of employment tribunals referencing the claimant’s menopause has more than tripled. There has been 10 in the first six months of this year alone.

The rise in cases shows women are increasingly feeling empowered to challenge employers who do not understand the impact menopause can have and offer them support. As well as being a huge cost for businesses, it can also have a massive impact on reputation as an employer.

Data found that 68% of customers had previously consulted their GPs about menopausal symptoms and 42% had seen their GP three or more times.

While we’re still learning about menopause and support for women is constantly evolving, both in and out of the workplace, we know there is always more to be done.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the conversation goes on menopause in next three years, in particular how workplaces will continue to adapt to support their workforce.

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