How Can We Support Menopause in the Workplace?

By: Guest Author

Published: October 16, 2019

Written by Deborah Garlick- Director, Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace

Guest Contributor

We mark World Menopause Day on 18 October. The very fact that we now have a global day dedicated to menopause is great. It’s time we took it from the taboo shelf and brought it firmly into the open.

Menopausal women are the fastest-growing workplace demographic. And we know that three in four women suffer from menopausal symptoms, one in four from serious symptoms.

Women are working much later in life, through their 50s and beyond, so for many they will spend their perimenopausal years (and many postmenopausal ones) at work. Which means for those that do struggle with symptoms, having the right workplace support can make a huge difference.

The UK is making some great strides towards supporting menopause in the workplace, and gradually the word is getting out this does not need to be involved or costly. In fact, I’d say there has been a seismic shift in attitudes. Three years ago it was incredibly difficult to find an organisation with a menopause policy. Fast forward to now, and Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace is running 51 menopause training sessions in October alone. Employers range from public and private sector, large and small.

It’s still early days and there is plenty more to be done, but inspirational organisations are creating an unstoppable momentum. There are even calls from Members of Parliament to introduce menopause policy laws. Watch this space… progress is happening.

What can employers do? 

Make menopause a priority. Menopause support in the workplace is urgent and important. Getting the conversation started about menopause is the first place to start, creating the right environment where conversations can happen naturally is key. It’s not a subject to shy away from, avoid, or be embarrassed about. Training events can raise awareness and educate line managers and colleagues about menopause. Company intranets and internal social media make excellent forums for informal discussions. Building menopause guidance or policies makes it clear to all colleagues how menopause will be supported, that conversations will be treated sensitively and confidentially, and that reasonable adjustments will be considered.

These could be anything from a desk fan or hand-held fan, an extra uniform or temporary flexible working hours. It really depends on what job the woman is doing and her own experience of menopause. It’s different for everyone, so each case needs to be taken on its own merits. But small changes can make a big difference.

What can women do?

We know that over half of women don’t talk to their doctor, even though for many their symptoms are worse than they expected. But there is a lot women can do to manage symptoms, and help is available. I’d never suggest employers give medical advice, but instead that they signpost seeking professional advice as a good starting point for women. Doctors can explain what medical options are available, and also advise on lifestyle and nutrition. Women suffering from menopausal symptoms at work can ask for a conversation with her line manager in the first instance, preparing with ideas and suggestions about what she thinks may help.

What can all colleagues do? 

Menopause is not a women’s issue. Men want to understand it too – many are already experiencing the effects of menopause through their partners, friends and colleagues, and they want to be understanding and supportive.

Where are we now? 

I’m delighted that Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace has worked with some of the UK’s leading organisations delivering training, workshops and awareness sessions, as well as writing and producing toolkits and policy documents. In just a short space of time, we’ve seen the topic of menopause at work gain momentum and become, thankfully, a much more talked-about topic. These organisations are from both the public and private sector, are large and small, but what they share in common is caring about the wellbeing of their staff. We’ve seen the rewards they reap, too, in terms of an inclusive culture, increased motivation, improved retention rates and the gratitude of colleagues.

But there is still a way to go. It’s time all organisations put the right support in place, and not just in the UK. It’s about changing the way we all think and feel about menopause, for good. Just think, if the UK has made such huge improvements in such a short period of time, what could the US do? I’m looking forward to seeing great progress in the years to come.

Deborah Garlick

Director, Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace

The views expressed herein this article, written by a guest contributor, do not necessarily represent those of the Red Hot Mamas organization. The content is for informational purposes and should not substitute the advice of your doctor.