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The menopause: A business critical issue for employers

Liz Chiva

Hallidays HR Director
08/03/2022

Current statistics estimate that around 4 million women aged between 45-55 are in work, with around 400,000 of these women starting the menopause each year.

However, research shows that 23% of women consider giving up work because of menopausal symptoms and almost 1 million have already left the workplace as a direct consequence of the impact of the menopause.

Menopause is currently receiving significant attention in Parliament.

There is no doubt that this issue is riding high in the Parliamentary agenda and it is therefore timely for you as employers to act now and take steps to consider how the menopause might affect your employees, how you can support them and how best to do this in practice.

What is the Menopause?

The menopause occurs when a woman stops menstruating due to hormonal changes. All women experience the menopause at some point and may be peri-menopausal for some time before this. Symptoms usually last for four to eight years, and typically occur between the ages of 45 to 55, but it can happen earlier or later than this. Early menopause may be caused by certain medical conditions or treatment.

What are the symptoms of the Menopause?

The reported symptoms of the Menopause can include the following:

  • Fatigue;
  • Hot flushes;
  • Heavy and/or irregular periods;
  • Night sweats;
  • Migraines;
  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Insomnia;
  • Memory or concentration problems.

The severity of such symptoms varies from person to person and may fluctuate over time.

How to manage and support employees?

It's important that you support your employees through every stage of the menopause. Having early and regular follow-up conversations to understand their needs can help make sure support and procedures are in place so they can continue to do their job effectively.

You should consider how an employee’s job role and responsibilities could make their menopause symptoms harder to deal with, for example if:

  • they work long shifts;
  • they cannot take regular toilet breaks;
  • their job requires restrictive clothing;
  • their job does not have much flexibility.

There are several steps you can take to make sure to find solutions before problems arise, such as:

Developing a menopause policy

To help employees feel supported it's a good idea to have a policy specifically for the menopause.

Having a menopause policy can help everyone in the business understand:

  • what the menopause is and how it can affect people;
  • how it affects everyone differently;
  • what support is available to those affected by it.

The menopause policy could also:

  • explain what training is provided to managers, supervisors and team leaders;
  • explain who the business's point of contact is for queries related to the menopause;
  • show how the business is open and trained to talk and listen sensitively about the effects of the menopause;
  • include information on gender identity and gender reassignment discrimination and how talking with employees about this is important.

Even if there is a policy, you should still make some allowances when supporting employees through the menopause because everyone's experience will be different.

If you want help with writing such a policy, then please get in touch.

Training managers

It can give employees more confidence to talk to their managers about the effects of the menopause on their work if they know that managers are trained to:

  • talk and listen sensitively;
  • find ways to give support;
  • have knowledge of the menopause and its effects;
  • know what support and guidance you can offer.

You should train all managers, supervisors and team leaders to make sure they understand:

  • how to talk with and encourage employees to raise any menopause concerns;
  • how different stages and types of menopause can affect employees;
  • what support and workplace changes are available;
  • how to deal with menopause issues sensitively and fairly;
  • how the law relates to the menopause.

Managing sickness absence

Because the menopause is long term and affects everyone differently, managing absence from work should be handled sensitively.

It's a good idea to talk to employees about any reasonable adjustments that could help them do their job. Employees should also be given a reasonable amount of time to adjust to any changes made.

When someone is off sick because of the menopause, you should record these absences separately from other absences. This is because there may be times when it could be unfair or discriminatory to measure menopause-related absence as part of their overall attendance record.

It's also good practice to allow employees to go to medical appointments related to the menopause. There is no law for this type of time off, but employees might have a right to paid or unpaid time off written in their employment contracts.

Carrying out health and safety checks

By law, you are responsible for the health and safety of all your employees, including those working from home.

For those affected by the menopause this includes:

  • ensuring menopause symptoms are not made worse by the workplace or its work practices;
  • making changes to help employees manage their symptoms when doing their job.

For the menopause, a risk assessment should include, for example:

  • the temperature and ventilation of the workplace;
  • the material and the fit of their uniform, if there is one, and whether it might make going through the menopause feel too hot or worsen skin irritation;
  • whether there's somewhere suitable for employees to rest if needed, for example a quiet room;
  • whether toilet facilities are easily accessible;
  • whether cold drinking water is available;
  • whether managers and supervisors have been trained on health and safety issues relating to the menopause.

It's important to make sure that your employees know they can approach their managers to raise any health and safety issues and will not be treated less fairly if they do.

Menopause and wellbeing champions

Having a menopause or wellbeing champion at work could help those affected by the menopause. The champion could be a point of contact if they need advice, or someone to initially talk to if they are not comfortable talking to their manager.

With support from the champion, employers, HR and managers could:

  • run workshops in the business to raise awareness amongst employees;
  • let all employees know that you are trying to support those having difficulties because of symptoms, for example through posters or newsletters;
  • check that health and safety risk assessments cover the different stages of the menopause;
  • set up a support network for employees affected by the menopause;
  • tell employees where they can find more information.

Furthermore, as part of a strategy aimed at supporting menopausal workers, you may wish to consider joining a number of household name businesses who have signed up to the Menopause Workplace Pledge (implemented by Wellbeing of Women), thereby demonstrating a commitment to actively support employees affected by the menopause.

Read more here:

https://www.wellbeingofwomen.org.uk/campaigns/menopausepledge

How the law relates to the menopause

A failure to address the impact of menopause in the workplace can also lead to legal claims. A number of cases have now been reported where the judge considered that the effect of a claimant’s menopausal symptoms was “more than minor or trivial” (contrary to their employer’s assertions) confirming that menopausal symptoms can have a disabling effect.

Such claims have not been limited to disability discrimination, but Employment Tribunals have also found in favour of claimants who have been subjected to less favourable treatment and harassment due to and employees age and sex.

Notwithstanding the existing protections against discrimination, there is also ongoing debate on whether there should be protection bespoke to menopause, recognising that the existing protected characteristics, e.g. of disability may not always align comfortably or appropriately with the relevant issues.

How Hallidays HR can help

If you would like to discuss any of the above in more detail, then please do not hesitate to contact us on 0161 476 8276 or email hr@hallidays.co.uk

Alternatively, take a look at our website: https://hallidays-hr.co.uk/

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