Menopause at work
Jan 28, 2022
More than a million women in the UK could leave their jobs because of menopause symptoms, according to research reported in the Guardian this month.
This latest insight intensifies the spotlight on the role of the employer in taking care of staff. A quarter of those women (who were experiencing menopause symptoms) polled said they were unhappy in their job because of a lack of support. Sixty-three per cent said there was no menopause-related policy in place at their work.
Employers know they must face up to this. Many of those we advise are looking for guidance about their responsibilities and how they can better support staff. What practical things should they be doing? And how can they go about things in the right way, given the sensitivities around employees’ personal information?
Our first piece of advice to employers is usually to become as informed as possible about the menopause – what it is, who it affects, how it manifests itself, what it means for those going through it. The recent wave of publicity will have brought many people up to speed; the menopause isn’t just about hot flushes. It affects sleep, mood and concentration – things that can significantly impact a worker’s ability to do their job.
Adapting the workplace physically (installing water stations, better ventilation, etc) can make a significant difference. Changing rules about restrictive uniform, and even altering an employee’s role or working hours, can too. And being approachable and sympathetic to workers’ needs at this stage in life is so important (consider whether performance issues may be menopause-related, for example). While the menopause isn’t currently classed as a protected characteristic, there are strong reasons to make sure a worker isn’t at a disadvantage because of it – not least the risk of age or sex discrimination. More than that, it’s just good employment practice to take care of staff.
As lawyers, we encourage employer clients to invest in the things that will make theirs the ‘right’ kind of workplace. Understanding your legal responsibilities is the first step. Informing and communicating with staff about your approach and the support that’s on offer must follow, and a menopause policy is a vital component in that. And training managers in what to look out for and how to handle issues around the menopause sensitively and lawfully really can make all the difference, both to the employees concerned, to your legal compliance, and to your ability as an organisation to retain talent.
To speak to us about supporting staff through the menopause, or any workplace-related issue, contact us on 01264 353411 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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