Menopause And Work: Why Employers Need To Pay Attention
Many people still don't quite understand why menopause is a workplace topic or why we are only now talking about it.
The reality is, women* over 50 are the fastest growing economically active cohort in the UK and as we take on more senior roles, work longer and later in life, we need to redress the balance of workplaces that are designed by, run and built for, men.
Specifically, as many women in the workplace reach menopause, their physical and mental health can be affected which in turn has a knock-on effect on their productivity levels.
Retaining talent at all ages
If we wish to attract and retain this incredibly talented pool of people, full of skills, knowledge and experience, we need to adapt our workplaces to become menopause savvy and supportive. That means considering the entire colleague journey and built environment for them and everyone they work with.
After all, more women are being sought after for leadership roles because research shows gender equitable leadership teams are more productive and profitable. In other words, ensuring that women over 50 can thrive at work really is good for business.
Women typically enter their most senior roles in their early 40’s, a time when hormone shifts are beginning to signal peri-menopause. This is precisely the time we need to create environments and cultures that are conducive to flourishing at work.
Forbes Magazine recently reported on a number of shocking statistics regarding menopause and work for women in the US. While these figures relate specifically for the US, our work here in the UK shows that many here deal with similar issues.
For example, Forbes quoted:
“85% of women have felt an impact on their work productivity or satisfaction due to menopause. Nearly 60% have tempered their career ambitions as a result of symptoms – passing on promotions, retiring and quitting earlier than otherwise planned.”
As mentioned, the statistics in the UK are likely to vary slightly but the overall effect is exactly the same. Huge numbers of women feel that menopause has impacted their work, and well over half have changed or downgraded their career plans as a result.
When you think that people generally want to do a good job, particularly people who feel they have a hidden challenge to overcome, it is a shame that so many feel menopause has led to poor productivity, time off work or even leaving a role.
I’m one of those women. My menopause left me feeling completely incapable.
What made it worse was the lack of support I received.
Looking back, it seems wild that, seeing as we know menopause happens, nothing was in place at work to support people like me to work through this stage, embrace it even, and adopt strategies and choices to stay on our 'A game'. So that both I, and my employer could continue to benefit from my knowledge, experience and wisdom.
Instead, combining menopause and work became impossible for me, so I left.
As someone who experienced no support through work, I am now committed to providing courses and resources to support individuals and employers to learn how to build their knowledge, ask and offer help and support and get talking about menopause in strategic conversations about people, wellbeing, inclusion and belonging in the workplace.
It isn’t just about altruism, although caring for your staff should never be in question.
Businesses lose money when they don’t educate and support staff through menopause. In the same piece by Forbes, it is reported that American companies lose over $26 billion to menopause.
Over $26 billion.
Instead of throwing money away, and losing valuable staff, we suggest that it’s time for employers to pay full attention to menopause and the benefits that supporting staff will bring.
Here are my five key pointers for creating a menopause savvy organisation:
Educate yourself and your team about menopause and its effects on women's health and productivity. Only 38% of companies surveyed offer some form of menopause education and support. This needs to change, fast.
Create a supportive and inclusive workplace culture where women can feel comfortable discussing their menopausal needs with colleagues, managers, or HR representatives.
Offer flexible working arrangements for women experiencing menopause symptoms, such as remote work or adjusted hours.
Provide access to healthcare professionals and counseling services to support women's physical and mental health needs during menopause.
Implement corporate menopause benefits, such as paid time off or access to specialised care, to demonstrate your commitment to supporting your female employees. At the same time, measure what is needed and act on this vital information. For example, almost 90% of companies do not have any flag on their HR system to record absences for menstruation or menopause. If you do not capture the data, you can't do the analysis to understand what needs to be improved to positively impact outcomes
By following these suggestions and sharing these insights for managers, a more inclusive and supportive workplace for women going through menopause can be created. This ultimately benefits both employees and the organisation as a whole.
It's time for employers to recognise the importance of menopause and take steps to support their menopausal workforce.
If you are interested in deepening your knowledge and understanding of menopause and want to support others as they navigate menopause, consider our CIPD certified Become a Menopause Coach Diploma course.
*Menopause impacts women, transgender men, non-binary and gender questioning people. Much of the research has been focused on women, hence the statistics generally reference women.