New employer resource on creating a menopause-aware workplace.
Menopause is a normal and natural part of women’s lives, but there’s still widespread discomfort around talking about menopause, particularly in the workplace. Many women don’t feel comfortable talking about it because of the stigma and stereotypes of ‘menopausal women’. When managers and colleagues avoid the subject, and senior leaders don’t see it as a workplace issue, it makes it even harder for women to get the support they need.
Menopause and the workplace
The symptoms of menopause can have a real and detrimental impact on women in the workplace. Insomnia and sleep disturbance can make it hard for an employee to concentrate or do their job effectively, hot flushes cause discomfort, and heavy and unpredictable bleeding causes significant distress and embarrassment when it happens in the workplace. These are just some of the symptoms and their impacts.
This is a workplace issue, with 25% of women likely to experience difficulties associated with menopausal symptoms at work. Workplaces that don’t recognise the impact of menopause on employees can make things even harder. Women who have to take sick leave because of their symptoms can find themselves penalised by absence management processes. When an employee isn’t allowed to take regular breaks, or cannot access washroom facilities easily, they will find it more difficult to deal with heavy bleeds. Line managers who are hesitant about flexible working may refuse a request that could have made it easier for an employee to manage their symptoms. And, line managers who want to help may not know what support they are able to offer in their organisation.
Without support, employees experiencing menopause may feel compelled to reduce their hours or responsibilities, or even leave their job altogether. This sees organisations lose those skills, and results in increased recruitment and training costs to replace them. Where workplace support isn’t available, this sends a message to women that they aren’t valued, or that their wellbeing isn’t taken seriously. This creates a workplace culture which doesn’t feel inclusive to women.
What employers can do?
Menopause is a legitimate reason to need support in the workplace, and employers have a key role to play in ensuring women can access the support they need. By making small adjustments to workplace policy and practice, employers can make a real difference to the lives of employees who are experiencing menopause.
Our latest employer briefing can help you take action. It sets out four key areas that contribute to creating a menopause-aware workplace. These are:
Increasing awareness of menopause and how it impacts women in the workplace is key to ensuring women are able to access the support they need. This includes building understanding among employees more generally, alongside targeted information for key people who will be providing support in the workplace, e.g. line managers and HR advisers.
Employers can create a tailored package of support measures that women experiencing menopause are able to access in their workplace. This can include menopause-sensitive absence management processes, access to free period products including specific products for heavy flow, regular breaks, and simple adjustments like providing a desk fan or moving an employee’s working location to a cooler spot.
Having a specific policy on menopause will help encourage women to ask for support and provide key people with the information they need to provide it. Line managers have a particularly important role - the ‘supervisor effect’ has a big influence on women’s experience of work, how comfortable they feel asking for support, and what support they get. Employers need to make sure line managers are confident in providing support and know what’s expected of them.
You can find more information on each of these key areas in our new briefing, including a list of good practice support measures, information on what a workplace menopause policy should include, and links to further information and support. You can find a wide range of information on the menopause, its symptoms and their impacts at NHSinform.scot. The Menopause Information Pack for Organisations also has a range of detailed resources that can help your organisation ensure action is implemented effectively.
Menopause and the Workplace Webinar
We hosted a webinar on menopause and the workplace in partnership with the Scottish Government, to provide help and support so that women can work comfortably with menopause. Speakers included Professor Kathleen Riach, Professor in Organisational Studies, University of Glasgow, who shared her expertise on menopause and the workplace, and Gillian Longmire from Blue Triangle, on practical actions employers can take. You can access the recording of the webinar below:
Gender inequality in the workplace is a significant contributor to the difficulties women face when experiencing menopause in the workplace. Many of the issues described here, such as how stigma and stereotypes create workplace cultures that don’t feel inclusive, are the result of women’s workplace inequality.
Creating menopause-aware workplaces will help employers to advance gender equality in their wider workplace, including helping close their gender pay gap. That’s good for women, good for employers, and good for Scotland’s economy. Download our employer resource today.