There are currently 13 million women in the UK who are peri or post menopausal, with approximately two thirds saying there is a general lack of support or understanding surrounding the menopause[i]. With increasing calls for more support at work for women who are going through the transition, this year’s World Menopause Day is a perfect opportunity for UK businesses to start the conversation about menopause in their workplace. Dr Mark Simpson, Chief Medical Officer at Health Management, comments:
“Women over the age of 50 are a fast-growing segment of the workforce, and most will go through the menopause during their working lives. While employers have responsibility for the health and safety of all their employees, there are also clear business benefits to promoting an age and gender-diverse workforce, including improved engagement and productivity”.
Stress, anxiety and depression are common menopause-related conditions reported by women in the workplace. Almost a third of women have taken sick leave because of menopause symptoms – ranging from hot flushes and ‘brain fog’ to emotional distress, anxiety, disturbed sleep, fatigue and migraines.
To provide the right level of support to female colleagues, employers should develop a work culture in which women feel able to disclose and discuss menopausal symptoms.
Starting the conversation
Training should be provided for employees and managers to help them understand the difficulties that the menopause can present for some women at work. Discussion about symptoms should be facilitated – while keeping in mind that not all women will feel comfortable discussing the menopause with their manager.
Canvass opinion from female employees to establish what information or resources would be useful to them, and ensure that treatment information and support is clearly signposted.
Here are some physical workplace adjustments which can make a significant difference for women experiencing the menopause:
- Review control of workplace temperature and ventilation and see how they might be adapted to meet the needs of individuals. This might include having a desktop fan in an office, or locating a workstation near an opening window or away from a heat source.
- If there is a required dress code or uniform, ensure that it is a comfortable fit for individuals and made of natural fibres if at all possible.
- Consider flexible working hours or shift changes. If sleep is disturbed, later start times might be helpful.
- Provide access to cold drinking water in all work situations, including off-site venues.
- Ensure access to washroom facilities and toilets, including when travelling or working in temporary locations.
In many cases, referral to an occupational health professional can be very helpful. Employers can help by communicating that menopause-related health problems are normal, and by treating menopause as a long-term health condition.