Menopause – Opening up the dialogue

Menopause is not just a female issue, it’s an organisational issue.  All managers need to know about it and how they can support their staff.  Awareness on this topic is fundamental and reducing the stigma attached to it is vital so that more people will talk openly about it.

One rainy Tuesday I was sat at my desk in our office in Derby when I felt a hot almost burning sensation on my chest that spread up to my neck and then onto my face. I hadn’t just run a half marathon or pulled my deadlift PB; no, I was just sat at my desk typing away!

This wasn’t the first time this had happened, and it was only when one of my colleagues suggested that it could be the menopause that I even thought it might be. I am 43 however and not 53, so why would I even be thinking about it? Well, it could be the start of the perimenopause, that fun bit before you actually get to the menopause which can last several years with lots of challenging symptoms – deep joy!

I started to recall times when I had woken up in a hot sweat, which is a surprise when I sleep alone! I have a weird temperature gauge where I can be utterly freezing one minute and next, feeling the need to strip off! My sleep is all over the place too.

I could be putting 2 and 2 together here and making 5 but it’s certainly something I need to be thinking about. So, my own recent experience has set me on a path to consider the impacts of menopause in the workplace. How might these symptoms affect my role as a Training Consultant? What support might I need from my bosses and colleagues? We are a team of 7 with 6 of us being women, so at some point this is going to be something that will affect our whole office.

According to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM), 75-80% of women of menopausal age are in work. 1 in 8 of the UK workforce are women over 50 and by 2022 that is forecast to be around 1 in 6 (ACAS). Most of these women will have symptoms that will affect their work and 1 in 3 will have severe symptoms.

So how can business owners and managers support these women and not fall foul of the law? ACAS have put together a handy guide: Menopause at Work. It outlines the impact of the menopause on women and the type of support that workplaces can give. If businesses do not deal with women sensitively and with respect there may be risks of sex, age and disability discrimination claims. Here are some useful pointers for businesses who want to support menopausal women:

  1. Develop a policy and train managers

Through training and raising awareness of the symptoms and related issues, a business should promote an organisation-wide understanding of what the menopause means for those going through it. This is essential to building a culture of openness, trust, sensitivity and respect around what is for many women a challenging time in their lives.

  • Consider a menopause or wellbeing champion

Wellbeing Champions are there to support employee health and wellbeing. They should take an active part in promoting activities and events, encourage colleagues to access relevant health and wellbeing opportunities, share best practice and stories of success, signpost colleagues to relevant resources and services and role model and promote a healthy culture.

  • Carry out a suitable health and safety risk assessment

Line Managers should speak confidentially to discuss what adjustments and modifications can be made to help with the symptoms of menopause. These could be, modifying a uniform or dress code, giving a desk fan, allowing more frequent breaks, agreeing a flexible working arrangement, altering some aspects of duties, making a space available for rest breaks.

  • Carefully manage sickness absence and dips in job performance

Monitoring absence and dips in performance because of menopausal symptoms may need to be recorded in a way that can be distinguished from other absences. This is because there may be times when it could be unfair or discriminatory to measure menopause-related absence as part of the employee’s overall attendance record.

If more and more businesses can acknowledge the potential impact of menopause on women and take some simple steps to help, then all women can be assured that when the time arrives their employer will be supportive.

If you need help with writing a menopause policy or awareness training for your managers and staff then please get in touch with our team

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