Menopause is gaining increasing traction as a high-profile topic, from media headlines all the way to Parliament. But for those struggling with symptoms, it’s important that we’re tackling it at local levels, too. And that means it’s time for all employers to pick up the baton.
Why? Because we are seeing the increasing importance of organisations committing to becoming menopause friendly. There’s a good reason menopause is being discussed more openly now. For far too long, it’s been locked away in the ‘do not mention’ file. But as more employers have taken action and celebrities have started sharing their stories, the media have begun to take notice. It’s also being discussed in Parliament, with debate on whether existing legislation is fit for purpose.
Essentially, there are four very good reasons for organisations to introduce menopause support in their workplaces.
Demographics is one of them. Women over 50 are the fastest-growing workplace demographic. With the average age of menopause in the UK at 51, this means more women than ever before are working through their menopause transition and beyond. Having menopause support and guidance in place means employers can offer reasonable adjustments to those that need them. It’s important to remember these will likely be short-term adjustments and are usually straightforward and low-cost. But this support can make a world of difference to those that need it and can often help businesses retain key talent.
Sadly, one in ten women have left their jobs due to menopausal symptoms. A statistic we need to eliminate fast. Menopause is a significant focus area for employers who want to make sure they have the right gender diversity in their organisation and on their boards.
I mentioned the discussions in Parliament about legislation. Already, menopause is covered under the Equality Act 2010 and the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Whether new legislation is introduced remains to be seen. But the fact is, an increasing number of employers are being taken to tribunal over discrimination due to menopause. The costs of losing a tribunal are many. Not just in financial terms, but reputationally too. Nobody wants to work for a company that doesn’t put its employees’ wellbeing centre stage. Which brings me to the fourth reason. It’s simply the right thing to do. Including menopause in wellbeing and EDI agendas is something all responsible employers will do. Indeed, we’re seeing an increasing number of high-profile organisations doing just that.
While the average age to reach menopause is 51 in the UK, some experience it earlier. And symptoms can begin years before menopause. These can be physical or psychological, and can change and vary over time. Many women report fatigue, anxiety and loss of concentration as being the ones which trouble them most at work. Simple adjustments like a desk fan, sharing notes after meetings, access to bathroom facilities and flexibility with hours can make a huge difference.
What does your organisation’s board have in place or in mind to become menopause friendly? If they’re not taking action now, why not? Those who don’t consider menopause as a wellbeing issue are likely to get left behind. So it really is worth checking with your HR director or teams to understand if this is on their priority list. If not, add it on. It will pay dividends.
Deborah Garlick is passionate about helping people live better lives by raising awareness and understanding of the menopause, changing perceptions and getting everyone talking about it. She is the CEO of Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace, founder of Henpicked.net and author of Menopause: the change for the better Deborah and her team have been working with UK-wide and international organisations for the last six years to make it easier for them to introduce the right training, policies and practices to raise awareness and education of this critical area.
Deborah discusses this subject in more detail in this week's episode of the Engage Governance podcast 'Getting menopause on the agenda'.