What is menopause?
This is a natural event in most women’s (and other people who have a menstrual cycle) lives when they stop having periods and experience changes to hormones, which include a decrease in oestrogen levels. Typically, menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and lasts between four and eight years. However, every person will experience it differently. Perimenopause is the transition into menopause and can begin several years before menopause. Symptoms are also often experienced during perimenopause too.
- hot flushes;
- night sweats;
- memory loss;
- recurrent urinary tract infections;
- joint stiffness, aches and pains;
- reduced concentration; and
- heavy periods.
Remember that those affected can also include:
- Trans people – described by ACAS as an ‘umbrella term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.’
- People with ‘variations of sex development (VSD)’ – some people might prefer to identify as intersex or use the term ‘differences in sex development’ (DSD).
It’s essential that employers are aware of all of the people who might go through menopause (and have symptoms) and support them equally. ACAS has information on supporting trans, people with variations of sex development and non-binary employees.
Implications for employers
A BUPA and CIPD survey found that three in five menopausal women were negatively affected at work. Almost 900,000 women in the UK left their jobs over an undefined period of time due to menopause symptoms.
Not surprisingly, these symptoms can affect the employee’s comfort and performance at work. All employers have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment for all staff. This means ensuring that adjustments and additional support are available for those experiencing symptoms.
This also includes men, who should be involved in any conversations or training. They may be supporting others through it or will be in the future. ACAS has useful guidance on how to talk to staff about menopause.
It also advises that all managers, supervisors and team leaders are trained so that they understand:
- The law in relation to the menopause
- How to talk to staff and communicate how they are able to raise concerns
- The different stages of menopause and their effects
- How to support and make changes in the workplace to help staff
- To deal with menopause issues sensitively and fairly
- How gender identity is linked with menopause and its importance.
Do you need a menopause policy?
Despite the majority of businesses not having any sort of policy or provision in place, it is advisable to create a menopause policy. Whilst it is not a legal requirement, it is in an employer’s interest to look after the well-being of staff.
Under the Equality Act 2010, menopause discrimination is covered under three protected characteristics: age, sex and disability discrimination. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 covers safe working (which extends to those with menopause symptoms). There are numerous calls for the government to introduce further legislation that requires employers to put a menopause policy in place to protect against discrimination in the workplace.
Businesses who fail to support staff experiencing menopause symptoms can risk:
- Performance issues and low morale
- Increased absence
- Staff retention issues
- Poor relationships between employer and employee.
What’s more, there has been an increase in the number of employee tribunals where menopause was mentioned. Any form of harassment at work (as a result of menopause symptoms) could be classed as unlawful discrimination of a protected characteristic (which includes age and sex). This is not only costly but can leave your business exposed to risk.
Having a menopause policy in place can ensure that all employees understand menopause and its effects, plus the support available.
How to write a menopause policy
The CIPD advises that “Employers should support people with menopausal symptoms in the same way as they would with any other health condition. Organisations have a responsibility to create a stigma-free environment that encourages open discussion and disclosure; this will encourage women to not suffer in silence and discuss the practical steps needed to support their full engagement and productivity at work.”
You may also want to include a Risk Assessment as part of your obligation to protect the health and safety of all staff. For those affected by the menopause this could include: making sure that symptoms are not made worse by the workplace and making changes to help workers manage symptoms. The HSE has free Risk Assessment templates to use.
The policy should be shared with the whole business, undergo regular reviews and form the basis of any training for managers on menopause. It should:
- Detail the training available for managers.
- Note the point of contact for any menopause-related enquiries
- Set the business’s stance on dealing with the menopause
- Underpin the commitment to support staff and prevent any form of discrimination.
A menopause policy should include:
- Training available for managers increases awareness.
- Information on how employees report any health issues relating to menopause and who they should speak to. In addition, absence management policies.
- Initiatives or support available (such as an employee assistance programme or any mental health first aiders).
- Signposts to external organisations which can provide information and support (such as Menopause Matters).
- Reasonable adjustments will be made to ease symptoms. These include adequate temperature control & dress code, flexible working options, changes to their duties and providing breaks when needed.
Get in touch for 15 mins free advice on how to write a menopause policy for your business.
Useful resources for how to write a menopause policy:
- CIPD Menopause guide
- ACAS Menopause at work
- Menopause matters, which provides information about the menopause, menopausal symptoms and treatment options.
- Daisy Network charity, which provides support for people experiencing premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.
- Menopause Café, which provides information about events where strangers gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss menopause.
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