According to our Menopause and the Workplace Report, most women* feel unsupported in the workplace during the menopause. This leads many to consider either reducing their hours or leaving their jobs, often at the peak of their careers.
Only 9.3% of women who completed our survey felt supported in the workplace while going through the menopause, and 57% of women reported that hostile workplace environments impacted their wellbeing and ability to work. Read on to find out more, and to learn how you can better support staff in your organisation.
What’s the situation?
Women are now working much later into their lives than ever before. The average retirement age for women in the UK is currently 64, and the average age of menopause is 51. This means that many women are working during menopause for over a decade, forced to contend with all of the challenges that brings.
Through our research we learned that many workplaces are failing to accommodate the needs, comforts and basic rights of their colleagues as they experience menopause.
A Wellbeing of Women survey found that one in four women consider leaving their jobs because of menopausal symptoms, which can include anxiety, depression, poor sleep, headaches, an inability to concentrate and more. Through our own research we also found that 57% of women going through the menopause experienced a hostile workplace environment which went on to impact their wellbeing and ability to work.
The majority of women surveyed also don’t feel comfortable talking about the menopause at work or informing their line managers about what they are going through. Even when women do bring it up, a recent Trade Unions Congress Wales survey found that six out of ten female workers saw it treated as a joke when they raised it. As a result, there have already been successful employment tribunals against employers.
The positive news is that, according to our research, most workplaces are potentially interested in developing a standalone menopause policy. Furthermore, most of the required adjustments are either free or relatively inexpensive to implement.
What can employers do?
To create a supportive environment for colleagues going through the menopause, there are number of recommended steps workplaces can take.
1. Create and implement a Menopause Policy
- A policy provides clarity for managers and employees by, for example, setting out key responsibilities and signposting to sources of support.
- It breaks the longstanding taboo. It normalises and encourages discussions of menopause in the workplace, so that staff don’t feel they need to struggle alone.
- By breaking this silence, a policy then provides an opportunity to engage with employees on any issues and shows the workforce that it regards the menopause as a serious work-related health issue.
2. Train managers
81.3% of women we spoke to felt their line managers needed to receive specialist training about the menopause. There are many resources which can support managers to effectively manage people with menopausal symptoms. Two examples include this guide from CIPD and this highly regarded training by Menopause in the Workplace.
- Appropriately trained managers can enable women to carry on working through the menopause where appropriate.
- Workers will feel more able to speak to their managers about any reasonable adjustments that workplaces are legally obliged to provide.
3. Support the creation of peer-led groups and women’s networks
Giving women the opportunity to network with colleagues experiencing similar issues is a simple and effective way to encourage a supportive environment within your workplace. Women we spoke to reported wanting:
- A safe and understanding space for women to share ideas and experiences
- More educational materials and resources, such as Meg Mathews’ website.
- “Confidence re-building sessions”
- Opportunities to network with other women within their organisation
‘Menopause Cafes’ are one type of peer support group that women can set-up and attend, offering accessible spaces free from stigma. Find out more about menopause cafes here.
4. Offer extra mental health support to employees
Anxiety and depression are both symptoms sometimes experienced during menopause. Employers can help by increasing their mental health provision, and actively encouraging employees to partake in the services provided. Smaller organisations can also signpost employees to affordable mental health support, such as our own counselling service.
5. Supply blue screen filters
A number of women reported migraines and headaches as a menopausal symptom. Employers could provide blue screen filters to employees to help reduce the risk of migraines caused by screens.
6. Flexible working
Women have mostly reported positively about home working. This is due to having more control over the temperature of their space, easier access to toilets, improved diet, and more flexible breaks. On the other hand, some women did report feeling socially isolated while working from home, and an increase in lethargy and brain fog from a lack of commute and social interaction.
Employers are encouraged to offer flexible working where possible, including home working, plus an increased amount of social activities to tackle the potential isolation of working from home.
If you’d like to find out more, our full Menopause in the Workplace report contains our research from the findings from our surveys, focus groups and email interviews, as well as recommendations for employers. We published this report during the pandemic so some of it relates to Covid-19, but much of it is still, unfortunately, just as relevant today.
* Please note that the women referred to in this work are primarily cisgender women, based on who opted to participate in our research. But it is important to note that it’s not just cis women who experience menopause, and not all women go through menopause either. The experiences of menopause for trans people varies hugely depending on individuals’ circumstances. We have included some links about trans menopause in our resources page.