Menopause in the workplace is a subject that has of late received increasing attention. Employers of all sizes are starting to realise that this is a significant issue for many of the people that work for them. Earlier this year the CIPD produced detailed guidance to help organisations and people professionals address the challenges of menopause in the workplace.
Why is menopause at work so important?
> Women are working later in life now than they did in the past.
> If we take the typical age that women experience the menopause, over 4m women could be working through this life transition here in the UK.
> For some women, the symptoms can be severe and debilitating. Around 10-15% of women experience very severe symptoms during their menopause. Some of those symptoms may impact upon work either practically or in terms of confidence.
> Many women find it difficult to talk about their menopause in the workplace. Some women find coping strategies, others will opt to hide their symptoms. Many women are concerned about how they will be perceived if they do talk about it.
> Research has pointed to the increased likelihood of negative reactions in male-dominated environments – making women even less likely to speak out.
It is clear that we can’t ignore menopause at work. So just what can employers do?
Educating people managers on the subject is essential. Providing specific guidance is a helpful place to start. The CIPD guidance provides several examples, including this one from the University of Manchester.
Small adjustments or changes can make all the difference. For example, if you provide uniform to your employees, make sure it’s made of natural fibres or provide more of it so that women can change at work if they need to. Provide effective ventilation, fans and access to cold drinking water or changing facilities. Consider changes to working hours or breaks for women who are experiencing sleep problems of fatigue. Be as flexible as you can be. Let the women that work for you know that it’s okay to have a conversation about menopause. Consider creating a network or support group, a place where people can share experiences and offer each other support.
Above all it’s about dialogue. Creating the conditions where conversations are safe, people feel like they can raise the difficult stuff and reach out for the support that they really need. A lesson for menopause – and much else in the workplace.
Gemma Dale is the co-author of ‘Putting Social Media to Work for the Busy Executive’.