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Menopause in the Workplace - Guidance for Employers

At a recent Employment seminar we focussed on issues affecting women in the workplace, including the menopause.

Pregnancy and returning to work after maternity leave are well understood; advice and support are readily available for women and managers. However, the same is not generally true for the menopause.

The biggest increases in employment rates over the last 30 years have been for women aged 60 - 64 (from 18% to 41%) and women aged 55 - 59 (from 49% to 69%). The menopause and its effects on women in the workplace is therefore likely to become much more of a high profile issue.

Improving awareness around menopause and the workplace.

Awareness is improving, but it is important for employers and HR professionals to understand the potential issues now, to minimise the risk of future claims. Studies show that a lack of understanding of the menopause is perceived as a type of gendered age discrimination; in extreme cases, there may also be disability rights issues.

The symptoms vary between women, but around 25% of women report suffering from severe symptoms.

Symptoms of menopause can include:

  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Tiredness
  • Depression
  • Reduced confidence
  • Hot flushes

These symptoms might mean women are absent from work more frequently or even leave their jobs early. Women may not put themselves forward for promotion. Diversity is therefore adversely affected.

So what can employers do to support menopausal women in the workplace?

  • Engender an organisational culture in which women feel understood and can talk to colleagues and managers about what practical and emotional support they need.
  • Education and information, for managers and staff, is absolutely key.
  • Consider setting up a support group.
  • Consider introducing a menopause policy (this may not be proportionate in a small organisation).
  • Put in place mandatory equality and diversity training (for managers especially) covering gender and age, and the menopause.
  • Take account of the menopause when carrying out performance reviews and applying your sickness absence policy.
  • Consider introducing temporary flexibility into a woman’s working life, such as reduced workload, permitting meetings to be rearranged, flexible working hours and home-working.

Consider what physical and environmental changes can be made. Examples might be:

  • Fans, good ventilation and temperature control.
  • Clean, well-equipped and comfortable toilet facilities.
  • Access to natural light (it has a positive effect on mood).
  • Cold drinking water.
  • An alternative uniform.
  • Quiet rest areas.

It is important to note that a one-size fits all approach will not be effective. Employers should consult with affected employees to find out what particular support they need. Doing so will help retention, diversity, and commitment to the organisation.

If you have any queries about a particular situation or wish to implement training, please contact us.

Key contact

David Sillitoe

Associate Solicitor

Call 01904 610886