Menopause: a critical business issue for employers
Employee Wellbeing: Life Events – Are You an Employer of Choice?
In this second article in our series on employee wellness, we look at the interplay between menopause and the workplace and why it’s now such a critical issue for employers.
Menopause is currently the subject of particular attention in Parliament. MP Carolyn Harris recently called for a ‘menopause revolution’ and, after successful lobbying, the government agreed to cut the cost of HRT prescriptions in 2022 and introduce a menopause task force. This is in addition to the Women and Equality Commission’s investigation into Menopause and the workplace is currently taking place. In addition, an independent report, commissioned by the government, Menopause and employment: how to enable a fulfilling professional lifehas just been published and makes a number of recommendations to the government.
There is no doubt that this issue is high on the parliamentary agenda and therefore it is timely that employers act now and take steps to consider how menopause could affect their employees, how they can support them and how best in practice.
What is menopause?
Menopause occurs when a woman stops having periods due to hormonal changes. All women experience menopause at some point and may be peri-menopausal for some time before that. Symptoms usually last four to eight years and usually occur between the ages of 45 and 55, but they can occur earlier or later. Early menopause can be caused by certain medical conditions or treatments.
Symptoms of menopause may include heavy and/or irregular periods, fatigue, hot flashes, night sweats, migraines, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and memory problems or concentration, all of which can impact employees at work. The severity of these symptoms varies from person to person and can fluctuate over time.
It is important to recognize that trans, non-binary, and intersex people can also experience symptoms of menopause. Family members of a postmenopausal person can also be affected.
Menopause at work
It is estimated that around 4 million women between the ages of 45 and 55 work and one Government report revealed that women aged 50 and over are the fastest growing section of the UK workforce. About 400,000 of these women enter menopause each year. which means there are direct workplace impacts that employers cannot afford to ignore. The business case for adopting a supportive strategy is bolstered by research showing that 23% of women plan to quit working due to menopausal symptoms and almost a million have already quit. labor as a direct result of the impact of menopause. The reasons for this are probably myriad, but may include the fact that many people will have poor sleep, which can make it difficult to concentrate; mood swings can have a detrimental effect on working relationships; and symptoms can lead to frequent absences. These difficulties may be compounded by the fact that the onset of symptoms often coincides with the care of adolescents and the care of elderly parents. Unfortunately, menopause often remains a taboo subject, leaving many people too embarrassed to discuss their symptoms or seek help.
Recent research by the Standard Chartered Banks and Financial Services Commission found that employees’ experience of menopause at work impacts their confidence in their role: 47% of respondents said they were less likely to apply for a promotion because of it.
Employers must therefore prioritize their support for postmenopausal workers if they are to retain a vital part of their highly skilled workforce.
ACAS also maintains useful information advice on how employers can better support menopausal workers.
Risks of discrimination
Failure to consider the impact of menopause on the workplace can also lead to legal action. A number of cases have now been reported, including Donnachie v Telent Technology Service Ltd  or the judge considered the effect of the claimant’s menopausal symptoms to be “more than minor or insignificant” (contrary to their employer’s assertions) confirming that menopausal symptoms can be disabling.
Likewise, the plaintiff in Kownacka v Textbook Teachers Ltd , whose cancer treatment had caused early menopause, won her disability-related harassment lawsuit. The labor court found that its chief executive had shown a “lack of insight, sensitivity and empathy” thus fostering “an offensive environment” due to his insensitive remarks about early menopause and the inability to work. have children of the applicant.
These claims are not limited to discrimination based on disability. In A v Bonmarche Limited (in administration) , the Labor Court found that the applicant had been subjected to unfavorable treatment and harassment because of her age and sex. Claimant’s manager made jokes about her inability to perform duties due to her menopause, while telling co-workers that they should apply for her job in an upcoming restructuring.
Notwithstanding existing protections against discrimination, there is also ongoing debate (including as part of the Women’s and Equalities Committee Inquiry) about the desirability of tailored protection in menopause, recognizing that the characteristics existing protections, for example disability, may not always align comfortably or adequately with the relevant issues.
Supporting postmenopausal workers
As part of a strategy to support postmenopausal workers, employers could consider joining a number of well-known companies that have signed up for the Workplace Menopause Commitment (implemented by Wellbeing of Women), thus demonstrating a desire to actively support employees affected by menopause.
Many companies also have menopause policies in place to direct affected employees to support available in the workplace and to encourage respectful discussions about menopause. This is a key step for any company that aspires to recruit and retain top talent. A menopause policy could, for example, include a variety of commitments, ranging from management training, paid sick leave and even the introduction of apps that give employees access to free consultations with experts. menopause who can support them in managing their symptoms.
A comprehensive policy should also outline the physical accommodations of the workplace that the employer will consider to support a person affected by menopause. These could include flexible work options, dress code changes and temperature screening measures. Many of these adjustments are inexpensive, but provide significant support for postmenopausal workers.
If employers want to invest in employee well-being, retain talented people, protect themselves against claims in court and safeguard corporate reputation, now is the time to consider and implement a comprehensive approach. to support people affected by menopause.