Addressing The Silent Taboo Of Menopause In The Workplace

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  • It’s something that will affect all of us at some stage in our lives, and yet despite this, very few of us feel comfortable talking about “the change” in public. So, why the taboo?

    With more women aged over 50 in the workplace than ever before, the menopause should be something employers and line managers are tackling head on. The reality, however, is that minimal efforts are being made to help ease its detrimental effects. In fact, a new survey, conducted by ITV’s Tonight programme, has flagged that far too many women are feeling ignored by occupational health services.

    The report, conducted in collaboration with Wellbeing of Women – a charity dedicated to improving the health of women – reveals that 50% of those questioned said that their symptoms made their working life worse. Upsettingly, 25% said they even considered leaving their jobs altogether because of its devastating impact.

    Which begs the question: why aren’t workplaces doing enough to support women through what can be such a debilitating transition? And what needs to be done to change the current status-quo?

    According to the NHS, most women will experience some symptoms during the menopause, with 1 in every 10 women experiencing them for up to 12 years. Common symptoms are wide and varied, and can include hot flushes and night sweats, difficulty in sleeping, headaches, mood changes, palpitations, joint stiffness – and even memory and concentration lapses.

    It’s not difficult to see how menopausal symptoms, such as the ones listed above, could significantly impact a woman’s working life. What’s more, as a mammoth 3.5 million older women are now in employment, it beggar’s belief why so many women are feeling isolated as they go through the change.

    In response to ITV’s findings, the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM) has launched new guidelines on menopause in the workplace, calling on employers to take action in order to keep workforces inclusive.

    According to the TUC’s guide, Supporting Women through the Menopause, there are many things employers can do to help women affected by the menopause, including implementing a positive health awareness campaign to inform all staff members, in addition to offering flexible sickness absence procedures and work environment risk assessments.

    Their report also includes a number of examples of how managers have adapted to the needs of women with menopausal symptoms. These include:

    • allowing women to report sick to women managers;
    • taking the menopause into account in absence policy;
    • providing electric fans;
    • providing cold drinking water; and
    • allowing time off to attend medical appointments in working hours.’

    It’s no surprise that with one in four women revealing they experience “nasty symptoms”, a further 85% of women surveyed by ITV said they believed there should be occupational health guidelines for all menopausal workers – not just the few. No woman should have to suffer and endure in silence.

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