Menopause is a business issue: what can employers do to help?
Medical Director Dr Subashini M, Aviva UK Health, discusses ways to support employees experiencing menopause and help them stay in work.
One in ten people going through menopause leave the workforce because of the challenges they face. As many as one in four thinks about doing so. Footnote 1
For employers, this not only means potentially losing people they value, but it also means the cost of replacing them. And this business reality comes from a wholly natural transition that affects around 13 million people in the UK at any given time. Footnote 2
Yet, there is much that you can do to improve this situation, including tailoring support to the needs of your employees. This may fundamentally change the working experiences of those going through menopause and lead to a more inclusive workforce.
Developing tailored support is especially relevant for menopause because the symptoms can last for years, and they’re experienced differently by individuals. Physically this could look like hot flushes, aches and pains, tiredness, irregular or heavy periods and problems sleeping. Psychologically, this could feel like mood swings, memory issues, anxiety, and lack of confidence. And all of these symptoms can impact performance and happiness at work.
While employers have a duty of care, making sure all reasonable adjustments are made for employees experiencing menopause, it’s also within their best interest to help. It makes good business sense to create a working environment that makes it easier for workers to perform to the best of their ability.
To encourage this type of working environment, consider these steps to support your employees.
4 steps to support your employees experiencing the menopause
1 Review your existing policies
Whether your HR policies currently include provisions for menopause, or they still need working through, it’s important to identify the support on offer. Depending on your business and employee needs, it may be more appropriate to create a specific policy relating to menopause. This could help your employees understand what support they can expect to receive, and it can signal to potential employees that your business is gender and age inclusive with a focus on wellbeing.
2 Put mental health support in place
The links between menopause and mental health are real with studies showing that it, “increases vulnerability to depression and anxiety.” Footnote 3
And although it can be challenging to unpick the underlying cause for poor mental health, hormonal changes could be one of many factors. Whether it’s from struggling with a lack of sleep or changes in personal circumstances, a decline in mental health may further impact the experience of menopause.
Giving your line managers the skills, tools, and information they need to identify and address signs of worsening mental health can foster a supportive business culture. It also means that line managers are primed to tackle any issues before they can lead to more serious problems or, potentially, long absences from work.
3 Signpost health resources
Creating a menopause resource hub, and regularly raising awareness on how employees can incorporate it in their wellbeing journey, can help employees feel more supported. The hub may also include external guidance for those who feel their symptoms need further medical support. An employee assistance program (EAP) could include information from external voluntary organisations or support groups, with availability online or through an app, that offer specialist guidance on managing menopause symptoms.
Here, the point is to provide a variety of resources and use different methods to capture employee attention. In other words, not just a poster in the staff room (although that’s a start). Showing employees that their wellbeing and menopause experience matters to you is crucial.
4 Offer practical support and flexibility
Taking steps to encourage employees’ comfort at work can reassure them that you’re sensitive to their needs. These measures could include:
- Offering flexible working for those who are experiencing menopause symptoms, such as poor sleep. This may be dictated by your business needs and workloads, but it could make a significant impact on an employees’ productivity.
- Communicating clearly with employees about taking short rest breaks, or arranging different meeting options, if their symptoms are causing them difficulty. Employees should feel safe to take a rest break or be comfortable in meetings based on their specific menopausal needs.
- Relaxing dress codes to allow for looser clothing that may help with hot flushes.
- Adjusting an employee’s working environment by providing a fan or making sure they can sit closer to a window to help them to cool down.
- Speaking with your employees thoughtfully and compassionately, listening to their specific needs and developing a plan with them may impact more than their comfort at work.
It could pause them from leaving.
Where to find more help
Our Menopause in the workplace employer’s guide has more details on how to support your employees, together with links to other dedicated resources.