There has been an increase in menopausal women who are in employment. In fact, a study by the British Menopausal Society (BMS) found that towards the end of 2021, around 4.4 million women between 45-60 were employed.
Gone are the days when women would quit working before menopause. However, that doesn’t mean they have it any easier. Most menopausal women have claimed to suffer from their symptoms which have affected their work, according to BMS. Around 47% of the women interviewed by BMS confirmed that they have had to take the day off. What’s worse is that those women were unable to cite their reasons honestly.
World Menopause Day is held every year on the 18th of October and is observed as a day to spread awareness about the subject. With the number of women facing struggles while dealing with menopause and work, it is time for workplaces to become safe spaces. The need of the hour is to educate employers and employees so that women don’t have to face these issues without workplace support.
Menopause – What it is and What it Does
Menopause usually occurs when women are in the 50-65 age range. The symptoms include but are not limited to, fatigue, hot flashes, change in menstrual cycle etc. These are usually accompanied by mental health changes such as mood swings, anxiety, irritability and more. Find out more details about menopause here.
While the crucial period is the menopausal stage, symptoms can occur before you reach menopause as well (perimenopause). Therefore, it is important to educate the workplace about what it is and how it is affecting women.
How Does it Affect Work?
Since this is a natural occurrence in every woman’s life, there is not much that can be done to stop it. Hence, fatigue, irritability, mood swings etc are all a part of life and something women need to work around. What can be done to make it easier for them is just having people support them and help in whatever way is welcome.
If you are wondering how this affects the workplace, here’s how — menopause symptoms can often push women to feel underconfident. This not only affects their performance at work but can be detrimental to the performance of the workplace. Moreover, their inability to be honest about their physical and mental health can also be added stress.
Additionally, their symptoms can indirectly affect their family as well as their co-workers. While families are mostly aware of the onset, co-workers may not be. Educating the workplace about it will not only make them more aware but will make this topic of menopause a little less taboo. Ideally, it would give menopausal women the confidence to be more open as well.
Three Things HR Can Do to Support Menopausal Employees
Talk About It
The most important, and needed, thing HR can do is just open lines of communication. Whether it is talking about this to women going through it or educating everyone else. It is imperative that it is talked about openly so as to build awareness.
Bear in mind that menopausal symptoms can be early and hence creating awareness about the other stages are also crucial. This is aptly highlighted in the case Davies v Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (2018), where Ms Davies was dismissed from her job during perimenopause. The workplace did not assess her medical condition appropriately and failed to see the impact perimenopause was having on her memory. She was awarded £14k as compensation for termination and £5k as compensation for injury to feelings.
This is a classic case which shows how important it is to educate employers and employees about all stages of menopause.
Provide Ample Support
The thing about menopause is that no one woman’s experience is the same. This means that while some women may be struggling with a particular set of symptoms, others may be facing something completely different. This is why having rules written in stone will never work for an issue like menopause.
That being said, no one is expecting employers, managers, and the entire HR department to be experts on the matter. The best way forward is to speak to each employee who is going through menopause to fully understand what they may need. Support can take various forms such as –
- Online resources for more information
- Nutrition and well-being workshops for menopausal women
- Consultations with experts
- Awareness workshops for all employees in the organisations
Let it be known to them that personalised support can be provided after a thorough chat.
Incorporate it into Policies
As mentioned above, many menopausal women have had to take the day off to deal with the symptoms. And while there is no formal legislation for menopause, employers can look into incorporating it within company policies. However, they will need to do this bearing in mind that menopausal employees may only be a handful and may not want to feel singled out.
Give them the option to take a few extra sick paid leaves, especially if they need to visit their doctor. Additionally, the option to work from home or work fewer hours can be considered.