Around half of women say they find work difficult due to the menopause. Whilst conversation about, and awareness of, the menopause is growing, what can employers practically implement within their workplaces to help support their staff?
What is the menopause?
Menopause is defined as the changes a woman goes through just before and after she stops her periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. The average age for women to go through the menopause ranges from 45 to 55 – and in the UK it’s 51.
Some women go through this time with few, if any, symptoms, but around 60 percent experience symptoms resulting in behavioural changes and one in four will suffer severely. The range of symptoms experienced by women includes, but is not limited to: poor concentration, tiredness, memory loss, depression, feeling low, reduced confidence, sleepiness and hot flushes.
How can companies support their staff?
More and more companies are now writing specific menopause policies to address the effects on women and their working life as they navigate this important milestone. As an employer, you’re likely to already have a range of policies and procedures in place that cover things like sickness, maternity, paternity and bereavement. Their purpose is to outline your company’s stance on that area and set out a clear set of expectations and processes which are easily accessible to all. It seems sensible to consider including a menopause policy – here are some pointers on what to include:
Menopause policies – what to include?
- Statement of purpose
Write your policy so that it’s in line with other policies you have and within the same spirit as your company culture and values. Policies which are supported and championed from the top will more likely become normalised, help to raise awareness and lessen the taboo of the menopause and how it may be experienced by women in the workplace. Having an open and inclusive culture which also underlines and respects employees’ rights to privacy and confidential support is key. Involving all staff in the conversation and any training is also important.
- Acknowledge and educate on the range of symptoms.
Including a description of the range of likely symptoms can help people understand how they can affect a woman at work. Whilst there is no definitive list it’s important to outline all relevant information and ensure that employees have the full range of facts. This will likely include the perimenopause (which is the period leading up to the menopause itself and which can last for a few months to 10 years) as well as the menopause.
- Outline Reasonable adjustments.
Here you can explain what line managers can offer to help with these symptoms. Adjustments can be made on a case-by-case basis but it’s useful to outline some of the possibilities
- a simple desk fan can help with hot flushes.
- occupational health assessments to help provide quiet areas/ working environments to help with lack of concentration
- a drinks dispenser can help women stay cool.
- providing a proper work/life balance rather than encouraging overtime can help alleviate anxiety and tiredness.
- flexible working arrangements can also reduce stress.
- being adaptable to your workers’ needs, as well as compassionate about what they’re going through, will also help to improve their attendance and efficiency.
- allowing reasonable time off for appointments and treatment
- Good signposting.
It’s also important that your policy includes signposting to other sources of help and support both internally and to externally.
Consider whether employees may wish to have a confidential discussion with an HR representative rather than their line manager. At the very least make sure employees are aware of who they can go to in order to access support.
Include references to other reputable sources of information and guidance – don’t give out medical advice but rather signpost employees to their GP and other support groups and online resources.
Some good reputable resources include:
The Menopause Doctor https://www.menopausedoctor.co.uk/
Menopause Matters www.menopausematters.co.uk
The Daisy Network Charity www.daisynetwork.org
The Menopause Café www.menopausecafe.net
- Risk assessment
It’s good practice to include a risk assessment with your policy to outline the different support measures, how they can be adapted according to work environment and individual circumstances. The risk assessment will also include details of when the policies and measures will be reviewed and updated.
For further guidance and support on writing and implementing menopause or other HR policies for your business or for specialist HR and employment advice, please contact the team at Murrell Associates.