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Women over 50 are the fastest growing group in the UK workforce. As the average age of menopause is 51, almost 5 million women could be suffering with symptoms at work.
Many people going through menopause feel uncomfortable talking about it with managers or colleagues. In an economic landscape characterised by skills shortages, recruitment challenges and attrition of talented employees, no business can afford to lose staff through lack of education or communication. And with numbers of menopause-related tribunals and legal cases on the rise, all businesses should be aware of their legal obligations and risks related to menopause.
So, how can businesses like yours become menopause-positive? Since 2021 Lloyds Bank has sought ways to improve the experiences of employees impacted by menopause. Read our FAQ plus five simple ways to make sure your business is a supportive place to work, which should both benefit the health of your people and your profits.
Not all of those who experience menopause identify as female, such as transgender or non-binary people.
Q. What is menopause?
A. Menopause is a stage of life that directly impacts the health and wellbeing of women and people with a menstrual cycle, usually happening around 45 to 55 years of age.
Menopause is the phase during which oestrogen levels drop and is technically defined as the point at which no periods have occurred for one year. However, symptoms occur in the lead up to this point (known as peri-menopause) and the period afterwards (post-menopause).
For those experiencing symptoms it can be a difficult and stressful time. Everyone's experiences are highly individualised but also can be shaped by factors such as gender, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, and disability. Everyone will experience menopause differently and, for some, symptoms are often debilitating and can affect people both physically and mentally.
Q. What are the most common symptoms of menopause?
A. Approximately one in four will experience symptoms, such as:
Symptoms typically last for around four years, although this varies from person to person and can be much longer.
Q. When does menopause happen?
A. While the average age of menopause is 51, 1% will go through an early menopause (before the age of 40) so experiences aren’t based on age. Peri-menopause can begin as early as your twenties. Likewise, surgery, illness, or treatment for other conditions, such as chemotherapy, can trigger early menopause.
Q. What is the impact of menopause on the individual at work?
A. Studies have shown that menopause can have a huge impact on both attendance and performance at work. A 2019 CIPD study reported that three out of five (59%) working women who are experiencing menopause symptoms said it has a negative impact on them at work, whilst the Fawcett Society found that one in ten working women have left a job purely because of their menopause symptoms. Eight out of ten women say their employer hasn’t shared information, trained staff, or put in place a menopause absence policy.
Those who stay report feelings of loss of confidence in their skills and abilities, feeling like they need to take time off work and hide the reasons why. For some, symptoms can impact mental health, increasing stress, anxiety and low self-esteem.
An IPSOS Mori Poll discovered that over half of working women aged 40-65 have experienced three or more symptoms of menopause including hot flushes (47%), night sweats (41%) and feeling tired (35%). Half of all women experiencing three or more symptoms have experienced at least one further detrimental impact on their working lives including having their relationships with colleagues negatively impacted, having to reduce their working hours or considered leaving work altogether.
With two thirds of menopausal employees saying they have no support in place at work, it’s clear things need to change. Without support, experienced and skilled employees may cut back on their hours or responsibilities, or they could even leave your workplace altogether.
Small changes can make a big difference and creating a supportive environment for menopausal employees doesn’t mean huge investments or resources.
Here are five suggestions for becoming a menopause-positive workplace:
1. Increase your knowledge and awareness around menopause
You don't need to be an expert, but some knowledge will help you to be a better, more supportive employer. Likewise, by encouraging your line managers to become better informed is key to breaking stigma. By including menopause awareness in staff training where possible, you'll effectively upskill much more of the workforce.
Familiarise yourself with more information such as symptoms and treatments and encourage your staff to do the same. Begin to build a resource hub. The Menopause Charity and the Balance app are both great places to start for facts, advice and support.
2. Normalise conversations
Employees report feeling embarrassed talking about menopause. The best way to reduce any stigma around the subject is to initiate and normalise conversations. As a business owner, you set the tone and the culture of the workplace.
As well as providing information and resources about menopause, you could create safe spaces for conversations to empower staff to talk about their experiences. Downloading free posters and leaflets from Menopause Support and displaying them at work will show that you are serious about improving experiences for all. Likewise, consider drawing up a menopause policy or update any existing policies to better serve your teams.
3. Listen and empathise
Once employees know they can speak about their experiences, make yourself available. Listen, pay attention, reassure and respond with empathy. Remind them that you want to hear about their experiences and support them.
4. Make the environment easier
Consider how to improve the office environment, such as making desk fans available, identifying quiet spaces and ensuring plenty of drinking water is available.
Improve access to toilets if you can and consider providing period products to help those whose cycles have become heavy or irregular.
Think about uniform policies, too. Anyone experiencing hot flushes will likely need to wash uniform every day so supplying extra uniform allowance or switching to breathable fabrics/cooler clothing options would make a huge difference.
5. Adjustments to working patterns
Changing work patterns or working from home where possible could make all the difference to employees experiencing disrupted sleep, for example, or allowing ‘cameras-off’ virtual meetings would help those suffering with hot flushes.
Think about what you could offer for those needing time off for medical appointments or how you could support staff to access medical care.
At Lloyds Bank, menopause awareness is one of our biggest health and wellbeing topics. Kate James, Communications and Engagement Lead, set up a menopause support group for colleagues back in 2016 after she experienced an early menopause and also helped design and launch the Lloyds Bank Menopause Promise in 2021.
‘We want to encourage all our colleague's experiencing menopause to stay within the business and we're doing that by providing medical care, wellbeing support and flexibility to those who need it, as well as training and empowering all our people to be more informed and comfortable talking about menopause, removing stigma so no one feels embarrassed or ashamed' Kate says.
‘But it's also really important for us to be a menopause-friendly employer. That way we can attract new talent into the business as well.
‘Menopause education, information and support can help improve employee satisfaction and retention, and in doing so create a culture of inclusivity within your organisation where everyone can thrive. Menopause support makes business sense!’
To find out more about the conversations Lloyds Bank has been having about menopause, listen to our colleagues talk about their experiences in this short video, learn about what approaches we’ve found effective as an organisation or discover our World Menopause Day activity on LinkedIn.
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