Creating an effective menopause policy is crucial for your business.
If you don’t have a menopause policy you potentially lose talent
Perimenopause and menopause are more in the spotlight and companies are creating specific policies to support their employees. Unfortunately there aren’t currently any legal requirements to have a menopause policy in place but this may soon change.
Without policies in place to support women through menopause, companies lose talent. They also have to invest heavily in recruitment, and create intensive training resources to help fill the significant skill gaps. Even if they do this they will have lost women who contributed a huge amount to the company. Why do these women leave? It’s chiefly because they are unsupported in the workplace whilst going through the perimenopause and menopause so they end up leaving.
A survey of 2,000 employees and 500 business owners by Benenden Health found 23 per cent of women who’ve been unwell as a result of the menopause have left jobs, despite the fact that nearly all businesses polled (95 per cent) recognised that symptoms negatively impacted work.
Symptoms of the perimenopause and menopause vary widely
It’s worth remembering that symptoms of the perimenopause and menopause can vary and fluctuate but many of the symptoms (anxiety, depression, discomfort, hot flashes, fatigue, headaches, generalised aches and pains) will take a heavy toll. It will sometimes feel impossible to manage work and deal with these symptoms at the same time.
Companies simply cannot afford to be ‘head in the sand’ about the issue anymore.
Recent research between the CIPD and Bupa revealed stated:
“Experienced middle-aged women are leaving the workforce in droves. These women are likely to be at the top of their game, but without the right support, at the right time, they are unable to reach their full potential for businesses to reap the benefits from,”
6 in 10 women have said their menopause symptoms have had a negative impact on their work. (CIPD study, March 2019). It is therefore important to create policies that support employees. These policies need to focus on three key areas:
1) Lessening any barriers to performance for employees going through the perimenopause and menopause.
2) Introducing workplace adjustments necessary to support women going through perimenopause and menopause.
3) Creating a company wide culture that encourages everyone to be treated fairly whatever their gender or age.
Between 75% and 80% of menopausal women are in work. Research by Age UK shows that the majority of women are unwilling to discuss menopause-related health problems with their line manager, or ask for the support or adjustments that they may need.Training needs to be given to all employees
What is a menopause policy?
A menopause policy is defined as a workplace policy setting out an organisation’s approach to female, trans and non-binary members of staff experiencing menopausal symptoms, and explicitly explains what support those employees can expect to receive during this time.
Aside from introducing specific policies for this group, it’s important that companies play a big part in removing the stigma of perimenopause and menopause. This means employees should feel that they can talk openly about it to their line manager and that their experiences will be be treated with respect and there will be a level of understanding and empathy.
Training also plays a vital role within organisations
As a first step it is important that training takes place within the organisation so all employees know what the perimenopause and menopause and what the key symptoms are. It is important to demystify it so that line managers feel confident talking about it and employees are more likely to come forward – without fearing that they will be judged of that it might jeopardise their career in some way.
Training for managers should be mandatory so they feel confident when discussing the issue and don’t inadvertently make comments that make the woman going through it feel judged, ridiculed or her symptoms minimised (so language is paramount here). One thing to remember when creating a policy is that no woman goes through this period of time in the same way. So you will need to keep looking at your existing policy, talking to your employees and updating your policies.
What should I include?
Ensure your existing flexible working policy includes women going through the menopause
All employees should be offered a degree of flexibility in terms of where they work. Employees should be able to talk to their line manager about these arrangements and ask for greater flexibility if it’s required. Women going through the menopause may require a period of working from home because of their symptoms and this should be made available to them.
Specific examples of flexible working that may be required include: Can they take time off for GP appointments or leave early if their symptoms are particularly acute? Can they start and finish work later than usual, or change their hours temporarily if they haven’t slept properly (insomnia is another common symptom).
Create a policy around making the workplace more comfortable for perimenopausal and menopausal women
When thinking about introducing a policy around workplace adjustments it’s worth thinking about the key symptoms that come up when women are going through the perimenopause and menopause.
Hot flushes are common so one area to be considered is how this impacts the design of the office environment. A well ventilated space is important for all but the perimenopause and menopause make this even more vital. It is important that you have a policy in place that means those experiencing symptoms feel comfortable at work and can concentrate. Other adjustment that should be considered include: ensuring that the desk and chair don’t amplify the aches and pains or perimenopause and menopause, ensuring there is a quiet area when employees can take some time out if they’re experiencing symptoms.
One way to make sure menopause symptoms aren’t being made worse by the office environment, or by working routines, is to carry out a workplace assessment. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website has templates you can use which cover both physical and mental wellbeing risks, including for home workers.
Create a policy around offering access to experts
Whilst managers need to feel confident in discussing the issue, it’s also important that women are offered access to experts if they need them. This can really help women navigate the menopause and feel reassured that their experience is normal and not out of the ordinary. Women may find it easier to talk to someone outside the organisation rather than someone they are working with day to day. This expert support may take the shape of a list of contacts/books/podcasts or it may be more sophisticated (this is what Bubble Health offers- live chat with menopause experts that can guide and support employees).
Read more on how to create your menopause policy here Open source menopause template
Ultimately policies that help those going through the perimenopause and menopause will ensure that these employees stay within an organisation, feel supported and positive about their employer and will help mitigate some this tricky and turbulent time.
You can learn more about Bubble for Work, and how we are working to support employees here.