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How can employers support employees experiencing the menopause?

The menopause can have a significant effect on a women’s ability to succeed at or even stay in work. Research by Standard Chartered Bank and the Financial Services Skills Commission has found a quarter of women who are both working in the financial services sector and going through the menopause are more likely to leave the workforce altogether before retirement because of the impact of the menopause on their experience..

Employees’ experiences with the menopause also led to reluctance to apply for promotion (47%), take on extra responsibilities (52%) or even caused some to reduce their seniority, in part due to the lack of support offered by their employers to manage symptoms. Twenty-two percent of people experiencing menopause and 25% of those who have already been through it, said it has made them more likely to retire.

The survey found that pervasive taboos, a “culture of silence” in the workplace and the physical symptoms each play a part in the negative experience employees have while going through the menopause.

The research suggested that employers could provide information and advice about the menopause to their employees but that this would need to be more than an “empty document”. Indeed, two thirds of respondents did not know if their workplace had relevant guidance or a policy in place. The “culture of silence” leads many employees to deal with the symptoms of menopause, difficulty sleeping (69%), anxiety and worry (63%) and problems with recall (58%), alone.

In a press release on 25th November 2021, the Minister for Employment has called for employers to strengthen their support for women to prevent millions leaving work due to serious menopause symptoms.

The press release was issued alongside the publication of findings from the independent report commissioned by the government in July 2021, which found that almost one in four women are forced to leave work as a result of menopause symptoms and those who remain in work and experience serious symptoms take an average of 32 weeks of leave as a result. Without the support of employers, this could limit progression and lead to long-term unemployment for any employees affected in such a way.

The government will be responding to the recommendations of the report in the coming months. The recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee’s inquiry into menopause in the workplace are also awaited.

The Minister for Employment has urged employers to use a national network of advisors; “50 Plus Champions”, to support and retain their workers over the age of 50, including women experiencing the menopause.

The 50 plus Champions are a national network of advisors who offer local support for low-income older workers by providing specialist advice.

Spread across the country, this dedicated team is there to support employers to retain their workers over the age of 50 including women experiencing the menopause.

Minister for Employment, Mims Davies MP acknowledged that it is evident through this report that Employers are losing too many talented and experienced women from their workforce far too early and stated ‘we know we can and must change it. Our new and expanded DWP team of 50 Plus Champions is there to help – I urge employers to make the most of their knowledge and local links to help us retain women’s skills and expertise and support them through this transition.’

She highlights that this is a clear win for all, as employers and sectors with better support and clearer understanding are able to keep female talent and boost inclusivity so women who have worked hard in their careers don’t feel concerned that they may need to curtail their careers early due to the impact of the menopause.

So, what are the key things you can do as an employer to help?

  1. It is important that employers create a supportive environment. A clear policy setting out an employer’s approach to dealing with workplace issues relating to the menopause will ease any uncertainty.
  2. Flexible working options, whether part-time working or job-sharing, can assist those in menopause.
  3. Several organisations including the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the British Menopause Society and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine have produced guidelines to support employers. If you are unsure how to act, this is a helpful source.
  4. Make use of the 50 plus Champions.

Openly recognising and discussing the impact the menopause can have on women and their careers and ensuring they have proper support can help to retain valuable staff, as well as being the right thing to do both ethically and commercially.

Older looking office worker