Do you consider your workplace to be diverse and inclusive? One topic that you may not have considered yet is menopause and how it may be impacting your staff and colleagues.
There is still a real taboo when it comes to menopause at work. While some menopausal women receive help and understanding from colleagues and managers, many are too embarrassed to discuss the issue or think their manager would be embarrassed. Often a few small practical adjustments at work could make a world of difference to those experiencing the often-uncomfortable symptoms of menopause. The Menopause hub research found, that 86% of women said they would not be comfortable telling their line manager the real reason for taking time off work (which was due to their symptoms of menopause.)
Menopause is an important workplace issue because it affects so many employees. The average age of perimenopause is 45 and menopause is 51. In Ireland there are 350,000 menopausal women in the workplace, in the UK there are 4.4 million, in Australia 2 million, and in the US 27 million menopausal women in the workplace.
The vast majority of these women will go through the menopause transition during their working lives. There is a strong business case for supporting women experiencing menopause at work, who are often at the peak of their skills, experience, and careers – enhancing talent attraction and retention, wellbeing, and organisational performance.
Research Statistics Reveal the Scale of the Problem at Work
Research undertaken by The Menopause Hub in 2021 , the first of its kind in Ireland, reveals some shocking statistics:
- 90% of menopausal women say they experience symptoms
- 30% describe those symptoms as severe (debilitating)
- There are over 40 symptoms (psychological, emotional, physical and genitourinary)
- 80% said their performance was affected by menopause (30% said ‘a lot’, 50% said ‘a little’)
- 39% took time off work due to symptoms
- 22% took 3+ days off work because of menopause
- 86% did not dare tell their employer/manager the real reason for taking time off work
- 43% considered giving up work or cutting back their hours
- 12% gave up work due to menopause.
What Can Employers Do
Lead from the Top
Organisational and cultural change comes from the top, so it is important for board members as well as senior leaders to engage. Male allies are important too, and many will have wives, partners or family members experiencing menopause. The importance of senior role models who are comfortable talking about their own experience of menopause cannot be underestimated.
Implement Specific Menopause Training for Managers and HR
Implementing training for managers will be essential for helping colleagues and staff who are menopausal. To help organisations support colleagues, the Menopause Hub has launched a new CPD accredited e-learning programme, the first in Ireland, with modules aimed at four key audiences. The Hub helps educate all colleagues, managers, HR and Menopause Champions. All modules include an understanding of menopause and its symptoms, how it impacts in the workplace and practical guidance aimed at helping to normalise the conversation around menopause at work. For more information, visit the Menopause Hub website .
Adapt and utilise mental health policies, such as a Menopause Champion like a Mental Health First Aider. This champion can then signpost and offer support groups and buddies for those experiencing menopause at work. Menopause is where mental health was about 10-15 years ago, stigmatised and taboo. Organisations and employers have put in place supports to address mental health issues in the workplace. Many of those structures and programmes can apply in principle to menopause, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel.
Try Not to Make Assumptions
Don’t assume that all women will be experiencing menopause in the same way. Some might experience very few symptoms, while others might experience severe physical and psychological symptoms that can last for 10 years or more. The average length of menopause is 7.4 years and there are over 40 symptoms. One of the most important things you can do as an employer is to train line managers to be confident to have sensitive conversations that consider individual needs and offer adjustments that can help with the specific symptoms that are being experienced. For more information, visit the Menopause Hub website.