Menopause is a lifestyle stage that every woman will experience at some point in their life.
However, unfortunately, many workplaces do not have a well-structured menopause policy, if any at all. Also, many employers will not allow time off due to menopause issues.
Yes, that's right, many workplaces do not have a menopause policy or any leniency regarding the experience.
In a recent survey - It found that 99% of women felt their menopause or perimenopause symptoms harmed their careers, 59% had taken time off work – 18% for more than eight weeks. Source: (Sky News)
This blog covers perimenopause, menopause and what post menopause is. What a workplace policy is as well as why it is so important that companies invest in menopause training and have a workplace policy.
The word menopause actually means one year from when you stopped having periods. Perimenopause is the time leading up to your one year and post is the time after.
What is menopause?
Menopause and the associated effects that can happen to women’s bodies is not often discussed, especially in the workplace.
Menopause is when a woman's menstrual cycle stops leaving them unable to naturally fall pregnant. The majority of the periods begin to slow down over the months, becoming less regulated, then come to a fall stop. However, it is possible for periods to suddenly stop also.
Menopause is a natural phase in women’s lives. It often happens from ages 45 to 55 and an average woman encounters menopausal symptoms at 51. Although, it is not unheard of for women to experience menopause earlier. 1 in 100 women can experience menopause before the age of 40, this is recognized as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.
Early menopause can happen at any age and in many cases, there is no clear cause. Menopause is more often than not caused by a change of the body’s sex hormones, which often occur with age. Occurring when ovaries stop producing as much of the hormone oestrogen and no longer release an egg each month.
What is the menopause in the workplace policy?
Menopause is covered under the [Source: -Equality Act 2010]. Menopause is largely covered under three protected characteristics: age, sex and disability discrimination. Unfortunately, there is no legal requirement for workplaces to have a menopause policy, and because of this many places do not.
A well-structured menopause policy helps, managers and other employees to understand and offer the correct support someone may need. Allowing, women to feel more relaxed and less stressed. As 59% of women said menopause symptoms have negatively impacted their work.
The menopause work policy aims to:
Ensure everyone understands what exactly menopause is and can talk comfortably about it
Educate managers about symptoms women can experience and how to support them
Allows women to make reasonable adjustments that are needed so they can continue successfully within work or studies.
Reduces absence due to menopause
Assures women's that companies are committed to making them feel secure at work and understanding their needs.
How does menopause affect us?
Just like everything, signs and symptoms vary from person to person, what we all experience will be different to one another.
Symptoms of menopause tend to often be:
Discomfort during sex
Low mood or anxiety
Reduced sex drive
Problems with memory and concentration
Menopausal symptoms can begin months or even years before your period stops and even up to 4 years after. Although, women can experience symptoms for much longer.
Always keep in mind sometimes women need additional support and may need to reach out to a GP. Women should reach out to a GP if struggling with the symptoms they do have or if they are experiencing symptoms before the age of 45. A professional can usually tell if you are menopausal by symptoms, however a blood test to check hormones can be required sometimes.
Why is a good menopause policy important?
A well-structured menopause policy creates a more relaxed work environment for women, feeling their health is important and what they experience matters to their employer. It allows women to feel able to work while experiencing menopause. As ¼ of women have considered leaving employment due to menopause as they have no support or understanding in their work placement. Source: (Health Awareness)
Having a good menopause policy is beneficial to the other everyone within the work environment. It allows everyone to talk freely about the issues women are experiencing, therefore, helping women themselves to feel more relieved. Also provides a better understanding of what menopause is, and when understanding something it is easier to deal with. Additionally, there have even been cases where women have won tribunals over their employer not considering menopausal symptoms.
According to research, replacing leavers costs £30,000 including direct recruitment costs as well as the less tangible elements of bringing a new member into the team and up to date with the experience needed.
How to help support someone with menopause in the workplace
Supporting someone with menopause will differ from person to person. However, allowing them to take time off if required and be reasonably flexible is a great start. The key to understanding how to support employees or colleagues is first to be educated on what exactly it is that they are experiencing. Offering an environment where they feel their issues are heard and able to talk and express themselves freely where they will not be judged.
If you, yourself have experienced menopause, sometimes sharing your experience with another colleague who may be going through it can help them to understand they are not alone.
Managers should check:
The temperature and ventilation of the workplace
The material and the fit of the organisation's uniform, if there is one, and whether it might make staff going through menopause feel too hot or worsen skin irritation
Whether there's somewhere suitable for staff to rest if needed, for example, a quiet room
Whether toilet facilities are easily accessible
Whether cold drinking water is available
Whether managers and supervisors have been trained on health and safety issues relating to the menopause
Treatments offered for menopause
While menopause is something all women experience at some point in their lives, there is still treatment available to those who need it.
The different treatment provided is:
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) - Tablets, skin patches, gels and implants that relives menopausal symptoms
Vaginal creams - To help with vaginal dryness and irritation
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) - Talking therapy can help with low mood and anxiety
Also, a self-helping tip would be diet. Maintaining a healthy diet while exercising often can help ease menopausal symptoms.
We should remember that we are not alone. Although it can be hard to feel like we're not alone sometimes, reaching out and talking about what we are experiencing can be beneficial. Unfortunately, more often than not women suffer alone and in silence with menopause and should feel like they are supported with a perfectly natural experience.
If you would like to further your understanding and support:
> Read about our Mental Health First Aid Courses - HERE
> Read more about our Menopause Courses and how to implement a Menopause in the Workplace Policy – HERE
> Contact us with any questions you have