About this guide
The aim of this guide is to help you understand the impact the menopause can have on your employee, your organisation and how you can work towards creating a menopause friendly culture so you can retain your most talented and valuable staff.
Whether it’s a small, medium or large organisation you work in, if you employ or work with women the menopause is something they will experience to some degree. For some women, the symptoms are mild. For others, it can lead to debilitating symptoms.
Menopause is a natural phase of a women’s life and one that’s more than okay to talk about.
How many women may be affected in the workplace?
- Almost 8 out of 10 of menopausal women are in work.
- The fastest growing demographic in the workforce are menopausal women.
- It’s estimated that currently, around 13 million women in the UK are either peri-menopausal or menopausal. This is equal to one third of the entire UK female population.
- Menopause is a natural part of a women’s life and yet it’s largely ignored.
This guide will help you to:
• Understand the symptoms of the menopause and how they affect women in the workplace
• Discover the potential cost of ignoring the menopause in the workplace.
• Know how to make practical and effective changes in the workplace to alleviate symptoms for your colleagues.
• Understand what changes can be implement in the workplace to support women going through the menopause.
What you need to know about menopause in the workplace ?
• What is it?
• When does it happen?
• Who does it affect?
• What are the symptoms?
• How will the symptoms affect the employee?
• What is the impact of the menopause on the workplace?
• How can managers can support their team members through the menopause?
What managers need to know about the menopause
What is menopause?
The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.
Periods usually start to become less frequent over a few months or years before they stop altogether. Sometimes they can stop suddenly.
As menopausal symptoms are typically experienced for several years, it is best described as a ‘transition’ rather than a one-off event for a woman.
When does it happen?
The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman’s oestrogen levels decline. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51.
But around 1 in 100 women experience the menopause before 40 years of age. This is known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.
Menopause can also happen as a result of surgery (for example hysterectomy, oophorectomy), illness or treatment (such as chemotherapy).
What are the most common symptoms?
About 8 in every 10 women will have additional symptoms for some time before and after their periods stop.
These can have a significant impact on daily life for some women.
Common symptoms include:
• hot flushes – short, sudden feelings of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest, which can make your skin red and sweaty
• night sweats – hot flushes that occur at night
• difficulty sleeping – this may make you feel tired and irritable during the day
• a reduced sex drive (libido)
• problems with memory and concentration
• vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex
• mood changes, such as low mood or anxiety
• palpitations – heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable
• joint stiffness, aches and pains
• reduced muscle mass
• recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
The menopause can also increase your risk of developing certain other problems, such as weak bones (osteoporosis).
How can the menopause symptoms affect my colleagues?
Symptoms such as:
Fatigue due to sleep disturbances can affect concentration and memory, which in turn leads to loss of confidence and stress. Stress and fatigue both contribute towards poor performance, leading to anxiety, leading to more sleep disturbances. And so the cycle goes on.
Hot flushes are very common, uncomfortable and embarrassing leading to a reluctance to attend face to face meetings with colleagues and clients.
Mood swings and heightened emotions can affect relationships within the workplace, causing greater stress and anxiety.
How can the menopause symptoms affect the organisation?
The impact of menopause on women’s economic participation includes: Reduced engagement with work.
- Reduced job satisfaction.
- Reduced commitment to the organisation.
- Higher sickness absence.
- An increased desire to leave work altogether.
The impact of menopause on women’s economic participation includes evidence to suggest that menopause symptoms may also have a negative effect on:
- Time management.
- Emotional resilience.
- Ability to complete tasks effectively.
- Lower productivity
What’s the cost of replacing leavers affected by menopause symptoms?
As far back as 2014 the HR magazine revealed that replacing leavers cost in the region of £30,000 including direct recruitment costs, as well as the less tangible elements of bringing a new member of the team up to speed through induction and onboarding to the required level of performance.
Bearing in mind a woman going through menopause may well be a senior member of staff which means, depending upon the complexity of the organisation and her level of seniority, onboarding her replacement could take many months.
Based on a survey of women over the age of 50 across the U.K. and looking specifically at behaviours of women aged 50 to 64, from the core menopause age group; new report findings reveal the impact doesn’t stop there, with over 370,000 working women in the UK aged between 50 and 64 admitting they have left or considered leaving their career, because dealing with the symptoms in the work-place is too difficult.
The menopause is costing the UK economy millions every year because employers don’t understand it.
The 2017 UK government report provides a very conservative estimate, assuming that 174,200 women will experience severe symptoms which have an effect on their ability to work.
The absence of these 174,200 women aged between 50 and 54 cost the economy at least £7.3million in absence-related costs, but this estimate failed to include other costs like:
- Symptom-related lateness for work.
- Lost productivity due to medical appointments during working hours.
- Women who reduce their working hours due to symptoms.
While for employers there’s the cost of:
- New hires.
- Productivity losses.
- Potential tribunal costs
All of which can have a significant impact that trickles down into the economy.
The other costs for women being:
- Loss of wages.
- Loss of employment.
- Loss of the psychological benefits of work.
Reduced productivity costs
Almost a third of working women within the core menopause age range are reluctantly having to take time out of the working week to alleviate menopausal symptoms.
Across the year this mounts up to over 24 hours which has a potential productivity loss, across the UK female workforce, of 14 million working days.
How can managers can support their team members through the menopause?
As with any other health issue, good people management is fundamental to supporting employee health and well-being, spotting early signs of ill health or distress, and initiating early intervention.
We’re sure you know line managers are typically:
- the first point of contact if someone needs to discuss their health concerns or needs a change or adjustment to their work or working hours, to enable them to perform to their full potential
- responsible for implementing the people management policies and practices that can help someone experiencing the menopause to feel supported, and to be effective in their role
- responsible for managing absence and keeping in touch if someone is off work ill or because of their menopausal symptoms, as well as supporting an effective return to work. CIPD
If you’re a manager or a team leader within a larger organisation, it’s important that you know about any policies, procedures or frameworks for helping and supporting women experiencing menopause transition and symptoms.
It’s important you understand the legal duty to make reasonable adjustments as required, whether you have a formal policy or not.
Why it’s important to know how to have a conversation about menopause in the workplace
- How would you feel having a conversation about the menopause with a member of your team?
- How do you think they feel about having a conversation with you about their menopause symptoms?
It’s good to talk.
When you have a better understanding of the menopause symptoms and how they can affect your team member, the easier it will be to identify the support they need.
- When you know how to prepare and have a conversation with your team member, the more comfortable and confident you become and the better the relationship with you and them becomes.
- When you make it easier for someone to open up and talk to you about their situation, the easier it becomes to create a menopause friendly workplace.
Many managers don’t feel confident talking about menopause because they don’t know enough about it or how to help their employees. This means that managers need right training so that they can understand the range of menopause brings with it and how they can support their colleague while helping to reduce the commercial impact of menopause on the organisation.
Contrary to belief, all that is required to achieve this is a working knowledge, empathy, good listening skills and not a degree in Biology.
Menopause And The Law
The Equality Act 2010
There is no specific law that directly relates to the menopause but Menopause at work is covered by certain pieces of legislation to protect employees: The Equality Act 2010, where menopause is largely covered under three protected characteristics: age, sex and disability discrimination.
Employers have been and are being taken to court under the Discrimination Act which is covered by The Equality Act 2010.
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
There’s also The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which is the provision for safe working and it extends to the working conditions when experiencing menopausal symptoms so a risk assessment should consider the specific needs of menopausal women and ensure that their working environment will not make their symptoms worse.
Employers have a legal duty to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the workplace risks to the health and safety of their employees.
Putting in place appropriate adjustments
It could be simple changes to someone’s role or their working environment that can help ensure certain aspects of a job or the workplace represents an obstacle for someone experiencing menopausal symptoms.
As a manager, it’s your responsibility to consider and to put in place reasonable adjustments to alleviate or remove these barriers where possible, so that women experiencing symptoms can carry on performing in their role.
- The menopause is a normal phase in a woman’s life
- The impact of the menopause, if left ignored, can be detrimental to an organisation
- Menopause at work is covered by The Equality Act 2010 and The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
- Make it easier for managers to start and have ongoing conversations by teaching them about the menopause.
How to create a workplace culture that supports those going through the menopause
Menopause: Why is it an important issue for the workplace?
A guide for managers: What you need to know about surgical menopause
Want to arrange your online menopause training? Email me TraceyTait@menopausetrainingcompany.com