Around 900,000 people in the UK have left their jobs in the UK because of menopause symptoms. In this blog post, we explore the steps that employers can take to support employees with menopause, and why it is so important to do so.
What is menopause?
Menopause is a natural stage of life and it will impact most women and people who have a menstrual cycle. Menopause usually starts between 45 and 55 years old, but it can also impact people earlier and later in their life.
The symptoms of menopause range in severity and can have a dramatic impact on physical and mental wellbeing. Some examples include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Brain fog – issues with memory and concentration
- Mood swings
- Anxiety and depression
Why is it important to support employees with menopause?
Often, the detrimental impact of menopause in the workplace is overlooked by employers. Menopause symptoms can have a drastic effect on the person’s ability to fulfil their role to their usual standards. For example, menopausal staff can lose confidence in their own ability. concentration issues can impact productivity and memory issues can lead to key tasks being forgotten.
In the introduction we mentioned the worrying statistic that 900,000 people in the UK have left their job due to menopause symptoms. Many of these employee’s will be at senior management age and their experience will be a big loss to the business. It may also lead to increased recruitment costs for employers and a lack of diversity in the workplace.
Employers should also be aware of the possible legal implications if they subject a person with menopause symptoms to less favourable treatment or a disadvantage in connection with a protected characteristic. This would be considered discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Menopause itself is not a protected characteristic, but it is indirectly covered by the protected characteristics of disability, age, sex and gender reassignment.
How can employers support employees with menopause?
There are several steps that employers can take to support staff with menopause. In our opinion, the first step is to spread awareness and ensure all staff have training that improves their knowledge of menopause. Menopause only impacts women and other people who have a menstrual cycle, but men and all others should be included in training so they can also support people going through it. This training should teach staff how to discuss the topic sensitivity and how to utilise the available support systems. It should also highlight the importance of gender equality and supporting trans, non-binary and people with variations of sex development.
This training will then allow for staff to have meaningful and supportive conversations with those suffering with the symptoms of menopause. Regular conversations will allow the employer to understand what support the person requires.
The employer may also wish to conduct a risk assessment to determine appropriate reasonable adjustments in the workplace. This will help meet their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to (where reasonably practical) ensure everyone’s health, safety and welfare at work. The adjustments should provide flexibility and examples include:
- Changing the uniform requirements as it may be uncomfortable
- Close monitoring of the room temperature in the workplace
- Introducing a rest area
- Shorter working hours or/and shift patterns
- Increased toilet breaks
We highly recommend that employers implement a menopause policy within their staff handbook. This will set out the employer’s approach to supporting those experiencing menopause symptoms. Handbooks should be amended to reflect the support available, for example sickness absences because of menopause should not be included as part of absence monitoring.
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