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30 October 2019

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Considerations for Menopause in the Workplace

Posted by: Sarah Scholfield

The issue of menopause in the workplace has been brought to the forefront again this month following the launch of three policies calling for “menopause-friendly” workplaces by the professional body for HR and people development, CIPD. The launch coincided with World Menopause Day, which took place on 19th October in an attempt to raise awareness and highlight support options for improving health and wellbeing for women experiencing the associated symptoms in the workplace.

According to the Office of National Statistics, in 2015 there were around 4.3 million women aged 50 and over in employment, which means that an increasing number of the female workforce will experience the menopause during their working life.

Some women may go through the menopause with very little impact on their day to day life but others may suffer from symptoms which persist for several years, having a negative impact on their performance and attendance at work. Symptoms can include sleeplessness, memory loss, headaches, hot flushes, muscle and joint pain, depression and anxiety as well psychological symptoms such as lower productivity, reduced job satisfaction and problems with time management.

What this means for you as an employer

What can employers do to support female employees who are experiencing the symptoms of menopause in the workplace?

  1. Review existing policies

Many employers will already have effective policies in place on health, wellbeing, performance management and flexible working. However, it would be beneficial to review these policies and look for any opportunity to specifically highlight the effect of the menopause within these policies. Another option is to consider implementing a specific menopause policy.

Implementing a dedicated policy can help to promote an inclusive and supportive working environment for all staff, as well as providing a starting point for open conversations. A dedicated policy can also deal with risk assessments and any other support and adjustments which may mitigate the impact of symptoms on an employee’s working life.

  1. Remove the “taboo” surrounding the subject

Promoting awareness of the physical symptoms and the adjustments that can be made to provide support can help to facilitate a more open work environment and remove the “taboo” surrounding the subject.

  1. Identify reasonable adjustments

An employee suffering with symptoms of the menopause should be supported in the same way as an employee suffering with any ongoing health condition.

Not only do employers have an obligation to ensure that employees undergo a risk assessment to ensure that working conditions do not exacerbate any symptoms of ill health, such an assessment can identify potential adjustments which could improve an employee’s performance.

Specific adjustments could include temperature control, provision of electric fans or access to rest facilities. Other considerations include flexible working, more frequent rest breaks or changes to work allocation.

  1. Educate the leadership team

Employers may wish to consider implementing additional equality and diversity training within the leadership team. This can go some way to increase awareness and facilitate a more open working environment, enabling managers to better support their employees.

Why act now?

A Report conducted by the Government Equalities office in July 2017 considered the extent to which the symptoms of the menopause can effect a woman’s economic participation.  In summary, the Report concluded that there is evidence to suggest that the menopause has both positive and negative effects on working women. However, there appears to be far more negative evidence for example, lower productivity, reduced job satisfaction, and problems with time management.

In providing support to women through the menopause employers are likely to benefit from increased engagement and loyalty as well as a lower sickness absence rate and employee turnover. Removing barriers to progression for women could also help employers to reduce any gender pay gap.

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Sarah is a Solicitor in our Employment Team with extensive experience advising employers on a wide range of employment matters and is also a member of the Employment Lawyers Association.

Sarah Scholfield - Associate

To discuss how Glaisyers can assist you contact Sarah Scholfield on Sarah.Scholfield@glaisyers.com or via 0161 832 4666.

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