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Why it’s important to support menopause in the workplace

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

By Laura Knowles

The average age to experience the menopause is 51, and for some the symptoms can last up to 10 years, so most women (and some transgender employees) experience the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause whilst still of working age.

For some, the symptoms can be quite debilitating, some examples of symptoms are:

● Memory problems or struggling to concentrate - often referred to as ‘brain fog’

● Low mood

● Hot flushes

● Night sweats

● Trouble sleeping

● Anxiety

This could clearly have a significant impact on someone at work, therefore recognising symptoms is important and can help employers to ensure those affected in the workplace are able to keep performing and earning to their full potential. For employers, this can help towards minimising the gender pay gap, as it supports those experienced (and often, therefore, higher earning) women in the workforce who, without support. may decide to leave their role due the impact their symptoms, or sometimes the resulting loss of confidence, have on them at work.

Ways that employers can support:

● Provide employee representatives to be a point of contact for employees who need to discuss their symptoms and how they are affecting them at work. You may also consider getting these representatives to hold confidential support groups so that women experiencing similar symptoms can speak to each other and share their knowledge to help support each other.

● Offer training for HR, line managers, or other representatives so they are fully informed about the menopause and what external support is available so they can signpost employees to places they can seek help or treatment.

● Create a 'Menopause Policy' which offers support and highlights any internal or external resources which can be sought.

● Consider offering some flexibility as part of reasonable adjustments for an employee experiencing these symptoms, such as flexible start and end times for someone who is struggling with sleep, if this is possible.

● Ensure managers are equipped to have supporting conversations with their line reports about issues they may be experiencing that are impacting their work. Low mood and anxiety can be difficult to discuss with your employer, but ensuring managers are coached in how to navigate these conversations professionally and supportively to enable employees to come forward more comfortably.

● Offer wellbeing sessions where menopause is one of the topics as this can help raise awareness. Think about your surroundings, could posters regarding the Menopause be placed up on the walls to help break the silence and start the conversation?

It’s important to note that although the menopause isn’t listed as a protected characteristic, if an employee was disadvantaged or treated unfairly because of their symptoms, this could be classed as discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 as it predominantly affects female employees, so employers must keep this in mind when looking at reasonable adjustments.

There is lots of information online via ACAS, CIPD and the Government website on how best employers can support their employees going through the Menopause, and we encourage employers to see what free advice is available. We at Second Chapter can also offer more tailored advice on people management and specifically employee wellbeing, so please get in touch if you need more support.

About Laura Knowles

Laura is currently HR Business Partner at Second Chapter where she advises clients on a range of HR matters including performance management, disciplinary and grievance, attendance management, flexible working, and employee engagement. With a HR career spanning more than a decade, she has worked for A4E, Cambion Electronics, BresMed Health Solutions and Kirklees Council. Laura lives in Sheffield with her husband, two daughters and their two cats.

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