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Menopause in the Workplace: how can you support employees?

Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace, but did you know that one in four women considers leaving her job because of it? This is because, society-wide, there is a lack of support and understanding surrounding menopause. As a result, women are left feeling isolated, despite going through such a shared experience.

Recently, the government partially turned down proposals to protect the rights of women experiencing menopause. This was due to fears of, ‘unintended consequences which may inadvertently create new forms of discrimination’. Going forward, it’s arguably more important now than ever for employers to show their support for their menopausal employees. Eleanor Taylor, People and Culture Manager at EKW Group explained:

“Supporting women through the menopause is something that is high on my agenda, as I feel that ensuring my employees are happy and supported in the workplace is key to our collaborative success.” 

With this in mind, we thought we’d share some all-important information about the menopause, and how you can help your employees cope with it alongside sustaining their career. 

What actually is the menopause?

Menopause occurs 12 months after a woman’s last period, on average between the ages of 45-55 years old. It takes place as the ovaries stop producing hormones and the menstrual cycle stops. This sudden hormonal change can bring on a wide range of symptoms which are different for everyone, often making the menopause a lonely and unprecedented time for women.

So, what does menopause have to do with the workplace?

Dr Andrea Davies describes the relationship between menopause and work as a ‘two-way street’. Davies’ analogy is based on how working throughout the menopause can be enriching, yet it can also heighten women’s symptoms. 

Aside from the obvious financial advantage, having a job can benefit those experiencing the menopause as it helps to:

  • Give a sense of fulfilment
  • Boost self-esteem
  • Maintain identity
  • Satisfy social needs

As mentioned, some working environments may emphasise symptoms, perhaps due to the temperature, workspace, uniform or stress levels. Therefore, as an employer, you should do what you can to make their workplace a supportive environment for those going through the menopause.

What can employers do to help?

Don’t panic, you don’t need to become a menopause expert to be able to support your employees. To begin, you could try and make the workplace an environment where menopause can be discussed openly and honestly without taboo! It’s important to acknowledge that this is simply a natural phase of a woman’s life. You should also be able to find plenty of resources and training to prompt further understanding of what the menopause means for your employees, and how you can help.

When women are able to understand their symptoms and how to manage them, it becomes easier to restore a sense of normality. To help with this, there are a few simple changes that you could introduce in the workplace, including:

  • Desktop fans

A common symptom during menopause is frequent hot flashes. Your employee may find that these pass quicker if she has a fan to cool her down.

During menopause, it’s likely for a woman’s body to change. This could mean that her uniform will no longer fit how she is used to and leave her feeling uncomfortable. Having a spare stock of uniforms that are easy to discreetly access may help to make this more pleasant.

  • Extra uniform

If your company doesn’t yet have a flexible working policy in place, it could help to introduce one. This will make it easier for employees to attend medical appointments discussing their symptoms and treatments without it impacting their work.

  • Flexible working

You may have a number of employees who are having similar experiences with the menopause. You could encourage employees to start a support group to help each other and feel less isolated in their experience.

  • Support groups

As you begin to look at how your company can help your employees, you may actually realise that you already have more of a support system in place than you thought. This just needs publicising to your workforce, to show that they will help employees to cope with the menopause. 

Understanding how to sensitively and effectively support your employees through menopause may seem intimidating, for further advice please do not hesitate to contact Eleanor Taylor at [email protected]

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