Employment Newsletter - Edition 27

9th March 2023

Employment Newsletter - Edition 27

Focus on Menopause in the Workplace

In this issue, we take a look at menopause in the workplace and how you can best support your employees who are going through it.

What is the Menopause?

Menopause is when periods stop due to lower hormone levels. Menopause typically happens between the ages of 45 and 55, but can happen earlier or later. Perimenopause is the phase leading up to the menopause when symptoms tend to start, and hormone levels start to change. Symptoms of the menopause last on average for four years, but some women can experience symptoms much longer. All women will have different experiences of the menopause and its symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. For some women this can be a stressful and difficult time, affecting them both physically and mentally.

Some of the typical symptoms that women going through the menopause may experience include (but are not limited to):

  • changes in mood, anxiety and/or depression, memory loss, panic attacks, loss of confidence and reduced concentration;
  • hot flushes (sudden surges of hot or cold usually felt in the face, neck and chest);
  • night sweats (hot flushes that happen during the night);
  • difficulty sleeping that can make them feel tired and irritable during the day;
  • muscle and joint stiffness, aches and pains;
  • recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs);
  • headaches or migraines;
  • weight gain;
  • palpitations (heartbeats that become more noticeable); and
  • skin changes (dryness, acne, general itchiness).

In a recent survey carried out by the Women and Equalities Committee in July 2022, it was identified that difficulty sleeping was the most common symptom that 81% of women experienced. Further, 75% reported difficulties with memory or concentration and 73% experienced hot flushes and night sweats.

How does Menopause affect Employees in the Workplace?

In 2019, the CIPD carried out a survey which found that 3 in 5 working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who experienced menopausal symptoms confirmed that this was having a negative impact on them at work. 30% of women said that they had taken sick leave because of these symptoms but only 25% felt able to tell their manager the reason for their absence.

In 2021 the Women and Equalities Committee launched an inquiry into Menopause and the Workplace. In a report published in July 2022, key findings included that women who reported at least one menopausal symptom at the age of 50 were 43% more likely to leave their job by the age of 55 and 23% more likely to have reduced their hours. It was also found that as part of a survey carried out by the CIPD, 31% of women confirmed that they took time off work due to menopausal symptoms. Further, BUPA suggested that from their research, 900,000 women have left their employment because of their symptoms.

The report advocated for legal reform in this area and produced a series of recommendations. For example, it was recommended that the Government should produce model menopause policies to assist employers which should include topics such as how reasonable adjustments can be requested and advice on flexible working. It was also recommended that the Government piloted a specific menopause leave policy. It was also recommended that the Equality Act 2010 should be amended to include a new protected characteristic of menopause.

However, the Government have recently rejected these proposals in part. They rejected the recommendations to provide model menopausal policies and to pilot a specific menopause leave policy on the basis that this is not necessary at the moment. They also voiced their concerns that promoting menopause leave may be counterproductive to achieving its goal of supporting women to remain in the workplace. It concluded that a consultation should not be launched to introduce a new protected characteristic of menopause as they are satisfied that the existing legislation already provides protection to women experiencing the menopause. However, recommendations were accepted to appoint a Menopause Ambassador to drive forward work with employers on menopause workplace issues. They also accepted the recommendation to amend the right to request flexible working as a day one right, as set out in the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill.

How to Support Women Experiencing the Menopause in the Workplace

As the report published by the Women and Equalities Committee suggests, there is a business case for employers to support employees experiencing the menopause in the workplace. For example, through providing support, it is less likely that employees will take sickness leave, reduce their hours or leave their employment altogether because of their menopausal symptoms. In turn the employer is less likely to lose talented, trained members of staff and have to engage in a costly recruitment process as a result. In fact, Oxford Economics have suggested that if an employee who earns £25,000 leaves their job due to menopausal symptoms, it would cost the employer over £30,500 to replace them.

In addition, there are still legal protections in place for employees who experience unfair treatment in the workplace due to the menopause. For example, they could bring a discrimination claim on the basis of sex, age or disability, which are are all protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. There is additional legal protection under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which includes ensuring the health, safety and welfare of their employees and providing a safe place to work.

Specific measures that you could introduce in the workplace to assist employees who are experiencing menopausal symptoms include:

1. Breaking down the stigma

  • Encourage employees to talk about the menopause to assist with breaking down the related stigma. In a report published by the Fawcett Society, it was found that 8 in 10 women felt that they received no support from their employers in relation to the menopause and 41% reported that the menopause or menopausal symptoms had been treated as a joke by colleagues.
  • Introduce menopause cafes or a support group for employees to discuss their experiences of the menopause.
  • ’50 plus Champions’ could be allocated in the workplace to support and retain workers over the age of 50.

2. Introduce a Menopause Policy

  • Introduce a Policy to be incorporated into the staff handbook to set out your commitment to supporting employees through the menopause.
  • This should signpost employees to whom they can speak if they are affected by any menopausal symptoms.
  • The Policy should also set out how employees can request flexible working on a temporary basis, adjustments to their working environment and their entitlement to sickness leave because of menopausal symptoms.

3. Health Services

  • Think about health services that could be introduced or expanded to assist employees going through the menopause.
  • Can you provide access to virtual GP services or mental health helplines to assist employees that are struggling with physical or mental symptoms of the menopause? Many private health providers have specific services to deal with menopause symptoms, such as employee assistance schemes.

4. Training

  • Promote awareness and provide training on the menopause to all employees. A training session could also be used to acknowledge Menopause Awareness Day on the 18th October of each year.
  • Refer to menopause in any induction and onboarding processes, to make it clear that you identify it as a health issue and want to help with it.

5. Risk Assessment

  • Carry out a risk assessment which considers the specific needs of menopausal employees and to provide them with a safe working environment. CIPD have suggested factors to consider which may include temperature and ventilation in the office, the materials used in any uniform and access to toilet facilities and cold water.
  • Review what adjustments could be provided to an employee who is having difficulties with their menopausal symptoms. These could include looking at ways to cool the working environment, such as by providing a fan or adjusting air conditioning. Consider a flexible working arrangement, such as enabling employees to have a later start and finish time or to work from home on an ad hoc basis if required.

If you are having problems in the workplace due to menopause or you are an employer requiring advice or assistance on dealing with employees who may be affected by menopausal symptoms then please contact a member of the Employment Team for further advice.


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