Why Menopause Needs to Be Discussed in the Workplace

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Menopause is a significant life stage that affects millions of working women globally, yet it remains shrouded in stigma and misunderstanding, especially in the workplace. Ignoring this critical issue not only impacts the well-being of employees but also affects organisational productivity and morale. This blog explores why menopause needs to be discussed openly in the workplace, supported by compelling statistics, expert insights, and real-life cases.

The Impact of Menopause on Working Women

Menopause at Work, Menopause Awareness

CIPD report on menopause in the workplace.

According to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, two-thirds (67%) of working women between the ages of 40 and 60 who experience menopausal symptoms report a mostly negative impact on their work life. This statistic underscores the widespread nature of the issue, which is further elaborated by the following figures:

  • 79% of those negatively affected said they were less able to concentrate.
  • 68% experienced increased stress.
  • Nearly 50% felt less patient with clients and colleagues.
  • 46% felt less physically able to carry out work tasks.

These numbers highlight a crucial need for workplace awareness and support systems to help employees navigate this challenging phase.

Expert Opinions

In a recent interview by The Guardian, Dr. Katherine Kearley-Shiers, a GP based in Bristol who specialises in menopause treatment, emphasises the profound impact menopause can have on a person's ability to work. "Menopause can be really impactful on people’s ability to work," she says, advocating for greater awareness and supportive measures within workplaces.

The Consequences of Neglect

The case of Anderson, an office manager who won £37,000 in an employment tribunal, vividly illustrates the detrimental effects of ignoring menopause in the workplace. Anderson, who started working for Thistle Marine (Peterhead) in 1995, was a dedicated and well-regarded employee. However, her experience took a turn for the worse when she began experiencing serious menopausal symptoms.

In August 2021, Anderson informed her employer about her symptoms, which included loss of concentration, brain fog, and anxiety. Despite not requesting any work adjustments, her employer's initial response was to provide private healthcare. However, the situation deteriorated significantly in December 2022, when a series of events highlighted the lack of understanding and support from her employer.

The Breaking Point

During a heavy snowstorm on 13 December, Anderson worked from home. The following day, she informed Jason Clark, the company's technical director, that she would continue working from home due to heavy menopausal bleeding. Upon her return to the office on 15 December, she was met with sarcasm and disdain from Jim Clark, the company boss and director,  leading to a heated argument where her symptoms were dismissed and ridiculed.

Menopause at Work, Menopause Awareness

It's time for open conversations and understanding.

Despite her attempts to explain her condition, she was met with comments like, "Menopause, menopause a’biddy f****** gets it, just get on wi’ it." The lack of empathy and support pushed Anderson to the brink, resulting in her resignation and subsequent legal action.

The Impact of Workplace Support

Anderson's case is a stark reminder of the urgent need for workplaces to address menopause openly and sensitively. The dismissal of her symptoms and the subsequent lack of support led to significant personal and professional distress, culminating in her resignation and a substantial tribunal award.

Workplaces must adopt a more inclusive and supportive approach to menopause by:

  1. Raising Awareness: Educate all employees, especially management, about menopause and its potential impacts on work.
  2. Providing Support: Implement policies and support systems to help employees manage their symptoms, such as flexible working arrangements and access to healthcare.
  3. Instilling Empathy: Encourage a culture of understanding and empathy, ensuring that employees feel safe and supported when discussing their health issues.

The Role of Colleagues 

Colleagues also play a vital role in creating supportive environments for disabled employees' mental health. Here are some ways colleagues can contribute:

  1. Practice Inclusion and Empathy: Be proactive in including disabled colleagues in team activities and discussions. Take the time to listen to their perspectives and experiences, and show empathy and understanding towards their unique challenges.
  2. Offer Support and Assistance: Be willing to offer assistance or support to disabled colleagues when needed, whether it's helping with tasks or offering a listening ear. Small gestures of kindness and support can make a big difference in someone's day.
  3. Avoid Making Assumptions: Avoid making assumptions about what disabled colleagues can or cannot do. Instead, ask them directly about their preferences and needs, and be open to accommodating their requests.
  4. Be Respectful and Considerate: Treat disabled colleagues with the same respect and consideration as you would any other colleague. Avoid using language that is derogatory or offensive, and be mindful of their personal space and boundaries.

For additional information on this case, check out our podcast:

Workplace Insights | Ep 11 - A £37,000 Legal Lesson in Menopause Management

Listen on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

Menopause is a natural part of life that significantly affects many working women, yet it remains a taboo subject in many workplaces. By promoting open discussions and providing necessary support, organisations can not only improve the well-being of their employees but also enhance overall productivity and workplace morale. It is time for workplaces to recognise and address menopause as a critical workplace issue, ensuring that every employee feels valued and supported through all stages of their career.

Ready to create a more inclusive workplace environment?

Menopause at Work, Menopause Awareness

Menopause Awareness Training for just £19.99 + VAT.

Consider enrolling in HR Hub Plus's Menopause Awareness training. Our e-learning course equips HR professionals and managers with the knowledge and tools needed to support employees experiencing menopause.

Click here to learn more and sign up today!


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