In the UK, 75-80% of menopausal women work; understanding and supporting symptoms, both visible and invisible, is crucial for managers and employers.
- The average age for women to reach menopause in the UK is 51, although the expected age range is between 45 and 55. Currently, around 75-80% of women of menopause age are in work. It is important for employers to remember that menopause is experienced by some transgender and non-binary people as well.
- There are more than 35 menopause-related symptoms that can be categorised as physical, psychological/emotional and cognitive.
- Not everyone will experience symptoms. Approximately 25% of people will not have any noticeable symptoms and will therefore not be adversely affected by their menopause transition.
- Approximately 50% of people will experience mild to moderate symptoms, with a further 25% likely to suffer quite debilitating and often life-changing symptoms.
- For those severely impacted, menopause can result in them considering or ending their career. A 2019 CIPD and Bupa survey found that three in five menopausal women were negatively affected at work and almost 900,000 had left their jobs as a result of their symptoms.
- The symptoms people report as having the greatest impact on their performance at work are hot flushes, anxiety, fatigue, brain fog and memory disturbances/word recall issues.
- Therefore, the most troublesome symptoms tend to be mental rather than physical and, as a result, will not always be “visible”.
What is your role as a manager?
There are several ways in which an individual may choose to manage their menopausal symptoms, including medical, non-medical and lifestyle measures.
As a manager, it is not your role to offer advice on how an individual should manage their menopause; it is a matter for individual choice. However, by understanding the options available, you can signpost and support.
You need to be prepared to have a difficult conversation and as a manager you need to be equipped to do this whether its menopause or body odour or another topic, you need to tackle it with sensitivity and care. Knowing your employees is really important, look out for signs of what has changed, if their performance has changed consider if this is because of menopause. Ask the right questions, is there anything at work or home that is impacting your performance. Has anything changed with your health, what can I do as your manager to support you?
Encourage the employee to speak openly and honestly, understand how menopause is affecting them at work, what are they doing to manage their menopause and what you as their manager could do to help. Discuss what support they would like e.g. workplace adjustments and timescales. Just knowing someone understands and is there to listen can help and is so important. At the end of the meeting put a time in the diary to meet again, whether that’s to agree a way forward, to monitor progress or update. Menopause symptoms can change over time. If necessary, refer them to Occupational Health or ask for a GP medical report.
If you are unsure speak to your HR department if you have one and if not seek advice externally. We advise all our clients to include a menopause clause in their contracts and Handbooks if they have one, this is to set the tone and inform the employee that support is available. If your Company has an Employee Assistance Programme or Mental Health First Aiders offer access to these to the employee. You can also signpost them to external resources such as:
- The Daisy Network
- NICE guidelines
- British Menopause society
- Balance app
- Sadiq Khan’s clip on YouTube about removing the Menopause taboo.
Avoid letting your own view of the menopause cloud your judgment, this can be very dangerous as any experience you or your partner may have had is unlikely to be the same as another person’s. It may help to show empathy with a team member but remember that they may have different life experiences, stresses, health history and domestic circumstances.
Menopause itself is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, but a claim a may be brought on grounds of discrimination related to disability, age or sex. Increasingly we are seeing wins in the employment tribunal for women who have brought claims for bullying, harassment and discrimination on the grounds of menopausal symtoms.
It is also important to remember that it is not only your female, trans-gender or non-binary employees who can be affected. The Menopause can affect a whole family, including partners, parents and children. These family members may be stressed or sleep deprived as an indirect result of menopausal symptoms. Make sure your policies support all those impacted by the menopause and that you create a culture in which people are enabled to perform at the highest levels.