Menopause in the workplace: what are your rights?
Menopause in the workplace is a hot topic right now – that’s because menopausal women are the fastest growing population in the workforce. For many woman, continuing to work throughout the menopause can prove to be a real challenge. But do you know your rights and how can your company support you through this time?
BeingEve spoke to Deborah Garlick from Henpicked – an organisation that is championing awareness of menopausal women in the workplace to find out more.
With the increase in retirement ages and more women in work than ever before, the vast majority of women will be in work during their menopause transition.
While some women don’t experience symptoms, most do. So, it makes sense that employers think about how to provide the right awareness and support, and whether their work environment is actually making symptoms worse.
Thankfully leading organisations are doing just that, showing how to get everyone talking openly about menopause and helping colleagues be at their best at work. These include Severn Trent, Network Rail, The University of Leicester, Sherwood Forest Healthcare Trust, The University of Manchester, Carnival UK and many others.
Some are introducing specific menopause in the workplace policies and guidance too. But it’s important for women to understand that even without these, existing policies such as sickness or flexible working do cover menopause. Menopause symptoms are protected under employment law by the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination over menopause-related issues actually falls under either sex, age or even disability discrimination.
Research backs the need to take menopause at work seriously.
The Government Report into menopause at work highlighted that organisations are losing millions by not taking menopause seriously. Ranging from the cost of absence and sickness, losing talent or, at worst risking employee relations issues.
The King’s College and The University of Nottingham research highlighted what working menopausal women want and how they want their employers to support them at work. Almost universally women want their employers to understand what menopause is, what the symptoms are and what impact these could have at work. They also wanted menopause to be seen as a natural process experienced differently by all women, and to remove the negative language and stigma often associated with it.
How can symptoms affect a woman at work?
Women can experience a range of symptoms, both physical and psychological and every woman is different. The largest menopause at work survey has now been completed – run by the team who researched the Government Report, Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace and the TUC with over 5,400 people responding. The top symptoms cited as negatively affecting work were fatigue, insomnia, hot flushes, difficulty focusing or concentrating, and anxiety and worry. It’s clearly not just about physical symptoms.
Aspects of the workplace which made symptoms worse were high temperatures, poor ventilation and humidity.
What can women do if they are struggling?
Women suffering with menopausal symptoms should talk to their GP or a menopause specialist about how they can manage them and also about their longer-term health.
In the workplace, women should ask what support their organisation has in place by talking to their line managers, HR or Occupational Health. They can ask for reasonable adjustments to help them while they’re finding the best way for them to manage their symptoms. Often simple solutions can make a big difference e.g. a desk fan, temperature control at work, time off for GP or clinic visits, flexible working if they’re having difficulty sleeping, or referral to their EAP provider.
Understandably, some women find it hard to disclose personal information to their line manager, which is why it’s important for organisations to encourage menopause to be talked about openly. It should not be hidden or taboo. The right training is important too – line managers need, and tell us they want to understand how they can support a menopausal woman. Current lack of knowledge makes menopause a mystery for many – even those who’ve experienced menopause can sometimes feel in the dark.
But I’d urge women to remember that their line manager is there to help and support – reassuringly the survey results show the vast majority felt their disclosure was received with support and understanding by their managers.
It’s time for all employers to do this.
Leading organisations are stepping up to the mark with menopause awareness and support – it’s time all employers followed suit.
Useful places to find advice and support.
Henpicked: Menopause In The Workplace run a series of nationwide events which covers what employers need to know and do to provide the right menopause awareness and support.
A menopause hub packed with useful information from medical professionals and natural practitioners, with women sharing their own stories and expert advice.
Menopause: the change for the better. Available from Bloomsbury, good bookshops and through Amazon. Written by a range of expert contributors from clinical professionals to natural practitioners, this comprehensive and thoroughly researched guide equips you with everything you need to help prepare for the changes ahead. And includes a menopause in the workplace chapter.