The Menopause – A Workplace Issue?

By Rachel Davis

Principal Associate

October was Menopause Awareness Month and aims to open up the conversation about an urgent topic that half the population will experience but barely anyone is talking about.

With our population now living and working longer, and with an increasing number of women in the workplace in senior positions, menopausal women are the fastest-growing demographic in the workplace.

Menopause symptoms are protected by law under the Equality Act 2010 on the grounds of sex, age and disability discrimination. Workplace practices around the menopause are becoming the subject of greater attention and the number of employment tribunal decisions citing the Claimant’s menopause is increasing. 

A 2019 survey conducted by BUPA and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that three in five menopausal women were negatively affected at work and that almost 900,000 women in the UK left their jobs over an undefined period of time due to menopausal issues.

Many women, usually between the ages of 45 and 55, struggle through work on limited sleep, reduced confidence, lack of energy, low mood and hot flushes, whilst trying to fulfil their role at work to the best of their ability and reluctant to ask for support. Even though these women may be at the top of their game, without the right support they are unable to reach their full potential.

Often making simple changes to the working environment can help alleviate the impact of some symptoms, such as a comfortable temperature and adequate ventilation, providing a fan, easy access to water and flexible working arrangements. 

Many women continue working through the menopause and for many years beyond. In order to attract and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce, it is best practice for employers to provide the right support through the menopause transition. Employers should ensure that existing policies and practices on employee ill-health, dignity at work and flexible working are applied fairly and sensitively to employees going through the menopause and foster an environment in which women feel comfortable and confident in talking openly to their managers.

Menopause is not just female issue – it is an organisational issue. By talking about it openly, raising awareness and putting the right support in place, hopefully we can reduce the stigma attached to it and get to a point where menopause is no longer a workplace issue.

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