Do We Have To?
Legally, no but it would be a good place to start given menopause has become such a popular topic over the last year in the workplace. Fortunately for some women it will have no bearing on them, for others this is certainly not the case.
Companies need more awareness around menopause and our society needs to remove the taboo around it. The ultimate goal would be that women with menopause symptoms feel confident to discuss it and ask for support.
What is Menopause?
On average women would typically reach the menopause between 45 and 55. This means that their menstrual cycle would come to an end and eventually their ovaries would stop producing eggs. It is a completely natural process but it is not always viewed this way.
It is important to note that women reaching the average menopause age may be in senior positions and well established in their careers. Perimenopause should also be mentioned here. This means “around menopause” or menopause transition. This is the time during which the female body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years. Women start perimenopause at different ages and it can last for 8-10 years before menopause.
Should I Worry About This If My Workforce Is Young?
This is irrelevant and can be a common misconception which shows the need to become educated on menopause. While on average women would begin to experience symptoms when they are over the age of 45, women can be affected in their teens or early 20s and 30s.
This is referred to as early menopause and occurs where your cycle stops before you reach 45. Sometimes, this may happen naturally or this may be a side effect of another treatment. It is important that there is awareness around this as women going through early menopause may find this more difficult.
Let’s Talk About The Symptoms..
In the months or even years leading up to menopause women may experience some of the following:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flushes
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Weight gain/slow metabolism
Will This Effect Work?
In 2019, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in the UK surveyed 1,409 women who were experiencing menopause symptoms. Three out of five (59%) said that menopause was having a negative impact on them at work. Of those who were affected negatively at work, they reported the following issues:
- More than half (52%) said they felt less patient with clients and colleagues.
- More than half (58%) said they experienced more stress.
- Nearly two-thirds (65%) said they were less able to concentrate.
Nearly a third of women surveyed (30%) said they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms, but only a quarter of them felt able to tell their manager the real reason for their absence. Privacy (45%) was the number one consideration for women choosing not to disclose. A third (34%) said embarrassment prevented them from saying why they had to take time off and another third (32%) said an unsupportive manager was the reason.
The need for better support is further highlighted by the fact that more women say they feel supported by their colleagues (48%) when going through the menopause than by their managers (32%).
What Can I as an Employer Do To Help Women During Menopause In The Workplace?
There is a heavy duty of care under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act but there are many things an employer can do to help and assist on menopause in the workplace.
The first thing is to consider a policy to be drawn up outlining and the supports that are in place and where to go for the supports. Some other ideas that are useful would include:
- EAP – Employment Assistance Programme
- Support Team/Network
- Flexible working options
- Clear sickness procedures
There is a fantastic & free eLearning course available through Legal Island which is very helpful for employers and employees. You can complete this by clicking here.
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