Menopause in the workplace is a social and human resources campaigning issue in which people work to raise awareness of the impact menopause symptoms can have on attendance and performance in the workplace. Campaigners, journalists, personnel professionals and academics draw upon published research[1][2][3][4] and lobby for support for workers via industrial trades unions[5][6][7][8][9]

Background

Hand fans which are useful for combating menopausal hot flushes.
Hand fans which are useful for combating menopausal hot flushes.

The average age for the menopause transition is 51.[3] Women over the age of 50 are a growing demographic in the workforce. 14 million working days are lost to menopause each year in the UK [10]

Many women go through the menopause during their working lives, and workplace support is vital.[11][5]  Menopause is considered by many to be a private matter[12] or ‘a women's issue' or the 'last taboo'[13] subject in workplaces.[14] [15]The TUC found that many employers were unaware of the issues involved and not tackling problems in ways that helped workers. The impact of employers failing to make reasonable adjustments include loss of work days due to absence[16] and women being disciplined on competency grounds for health issues.[6] The number of UK employment tribunals concerning menopause is increasing[17]

A UK government report suggests that employers can make positive changes by "changing organisational cultures; compulsory equality and diversity training; providing specialist advice; tailored absence policies; flexible working patterns for mid-life women; and fairly low cost environmental changes" to cater for women's differing experiences.[3] The CIPD have produced a range of guides for HR professionals and managers [18]

There remains a research gap in evaluating the effectiveness of these interventions.

The social acceptability of discussions of menopause vary across cultures. Menopause is an intersectional issue of gender and age. For many women it is experienced as a 'double or triple whammy' of home and workplace responsibilities coming as it does just at the time when their children are teenagers, their parents are elderly and they have just made it back from a career break. It may also come at the time of increased leadership and management responsibilities.[19]  Three out of five (59%) working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work [20] Menopause support may also be linked to mental health at work. A 2018 Radio 4 Woman's Hour poll that found that 48% of women experiencing the menopause reported that it had ‘a negative impact on their mental health and mood.’[21]

Some aspects of work place environments can make menopause symptoms worse, especially hot or poorly ventilated environments.[22][23]

Menopause also impacts people working from home. During the global COVID-19 pandemic, many women who had previously worked in their employer's premises shifted to working from home[24][25] While there are some elements of working from home which might be assumed to be better for menopausal women such as more control over the temperature and comfort of their home environments, there are multiple factors such as the responsibilities of home schooling and sharing limited space in the home which combined to shape working women's experiences of lockdown.

Types of work

Media and entertainment industry

There are a number of high profile media professionals and journalists in the UK who have worked to raise awareness of menopause through sharing their own experiences publicly. These include Patsy Kensit, Davina McCall, Jenni Murray,[26] Kirsty Wark,[27] Jennifer Saunders,[28] and Jenny Eclair.[29]

Universities

Some higher education institutions [30] have made changes to support their staff. These include University of Leicester[31] and University College London[32]

Police forces

The Police in England and Wales have published National Menopause Guidance which is designed to help support and advise individuals, line managers, senior leaders and occupational health advisors [33] The national lead for Gender at the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: “I genuinely believe that the launch of this guidance is a huge step forward for policing.“The demographic of the police workforce across the UK is changing, with an increasing number of female colleagues, and an aging workforce in key front-line roles as well as other roles in our organisations. There are clear health and safety implications for women, their colleagues, and the general public, if we do not support, understand and deal with menopause issues properly.[33] Support is also available for members of Police Federation Scotland[34] and Police Federation of Northern Ireland[35]

NHS

The NHS recognise that 'with our population now living longer, working longer, and with so many women working in the NHS, it's vital that staff are supported to stay well and thrive in the workplace'.[36][37] The BMA argue that employers should take a pro-active approach to an inclusive workplace.[38]

Politics

British MPs have pushed for clear workplace policies to protect women going through the menopause. Conservative MP Rachel Maclean said "My central message is: menopause is the last taboo because it is still hidden and it only affects women and it only affects older women. It's ageism, it's sexism, all rolled into one."[39]

References

  1. ^ "Menopause and Work: New Guidelines - Dr Louise Newson Menopause Doctor". My Menopause Doctor. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  2. ^ "Advice on the menopause". www.fom.ac.uk. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  3. ^ a b c "Menopause transition: effects on women's economic participation". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  4. ^ "Menopause and the workplace". Research at The Open University. 2019-03-05. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  5. ^ a b "Menopause at work". archive.acas.org.uk. 2019-10-18. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  6. ^ a b osdjay (2019-04-24). "Menopause at work". www.tuc.org.uk. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  7. ^ "Supporting menopausal women at work" (PDF). UCU.
  8. ^ Editor (2019-06-18). "The menopause – UNISON will get this covered". UNISON Scotland. Retrieved 2021-03-14.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  9. ^ EIS. "Supporting Older Women in the Workplace" (PDF).
  10. ^ Papadatou, Aphrodite (2019-04-10). "Menopause costs UK economy 14 million working days per year". HRreview. Retrieved 2021-08-07.
  11. ^ Jack, Gavin; Riach, Kathleen; Bariola, Emily; Pitts, Marian; Schapper, Jan; Sarrel, Philip (March 2016). "Menopause in the workplace: What employers should be doing". Maturitas. 85: 88–95. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2015.12.006. ISSN 1873-4111. PMID 26857886.
  12. ^ "A third of women hide menopause symptoms at work – report". the Guardian. 2021-03-08. Retrieved 2021-03-08.
  13. ^ "Breaking the last taboo". CIPD. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  14. ^ "The menopause: the new protected characteristic?". Law Society of Scotland. Retrieved 2021-03-14.
  15. ^ "'My bosses were happy to destroy me' – the women forced out of work by menopause". the Guardian. 2021-08-17. Retrieved 2021-08-22.
  16. ^ "Menopause at work - 14 million days lost a year". HR News. 2019-04-10. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  17. ^ "Menopause at centre of increasing number of UK employment tribunals". the Guardian. 2021-08-07. Retrieved 2021-08-07.
  18. ^ "The menopause at work: guidance for people professionals | CIPD guides". CIPD. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  19. ^ "It's Time to Start Talking About Menopause at Work". Harvard Business Review. 2020-02-24. ISSN 0017-8012. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  20. ^ "Majority of working women experiencing the menopause say it has a negative impact on them at work". CIPD. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  21. ^ Atkinson, Carol; Carmichael, Fiona; Duberley, Joanne. "Menopause discrimination is a real thing – this is how employers can help". The Conversation. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  22. ^ "Work Temperature Wars". Insulation Express. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  23. ^ Oliver, Sharon (2020). "How can air conditioning support menopausal women?". Mitsubishi Electrical.
  24. ^ Brewis, Jo (2020-06-06). "The health and socioeconomic impact on menopausal women of working from home". Case Reports in Women's Health. 27: e00229. doi:10.1016/j.crwh.2020.e00229. ISSN 2214-9112. PMC 7292903. PMID 32551236.
  25. ^ Woods, Alaana (2020-11-03). "Supporting employees through menopause when working remotely". Personnel Today. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  26. ^ Murray, Jenni (2003). Is it me, or is it hot in here? A modern woman's guide to the menopause. London: Vermilion. ISBN 0-09-188777-1. OCLC 51741029.
  27. ^ "Kirsty Wark: 'Let's talk about the menopause'". BBC News. 2017-02-16. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  28. ^ "'I just coped': Kirsty Wark on breaking the silence about menopause". The Guardian. 2017-04-15. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  29. ^ "Jenny Eclair: 'Menopause gave me incandescent rage. It was like a superpower'". The Guardian. 2020-06-28. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  30. ^ "Breaking the silence about the menopause". Times Higher Education (THE). 2020-01-16. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  31. ^ pm357. "BBC Sunday Politics - University of Leicester Menopause Policy — University of Leicester". www2.le.ac.uk. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  32. ^ UCL (2020-12-16). "Menopause guidance". UCL Human Resources. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  33. ^ a b "Police service set to welcome National Menopause Guidance". www.polfed.org. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  34. ^ Hamilton, David (2017-12-15). "Menopause Awareness Training". Scottish Police Federation. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  35. ^ "The Menopause". Police Federation NI. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  36. ^ "Menopause in the workplace". www.nhsemployers.org. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  37. ^ "NHSGGC : Menopause Policy". www.nhsggc.org.uk. Retrieved 2021-03-14.
  38. ^ "Challenging the culture on menopause for working doctors report". The British Medical Association is the trade union and professional body for doctors in the UK. Retrieved 2021-03-14.
  39. ^ "Workplaces must protect women going through menopause, say MPs". the Guardian. 2019-08-25. Retrieved 2021-03-06.