Alison Shemwell of HSBC UK on putting the menopause on its wellbeing agenda


Globally, more than 50% of HSBC’s workforce are women and nearly one in three is of menopausal age (typically 44 to 55).

Alison Shemwell of HSBC UK on putting the menopause on its wellbeing agenda

The menopause affects women and their families, often at the peak of their careers. But it’s rare they can talk openly in the workplace about symptoms. Some female colleagues may decide to pause or end their careers during menopause given the significant symptoms they may experience.

Driven by a commitment to make HSBC UK an inclusive environment where everyone can be at their best, we’ve taken steps to build awareness and understanding on the menopause across the organisation. We have also made some practical changes to improve the working environment for women experiencing menopausal symptoms.

Last year, HSBC UK held its first talk on the menopause during our Wellbeing Month, with both male and female senior managers sharing their experiences of their menopause ‘journey’ (both from an individual and work perspective).

With more than 500 colleagues joining the conversation in the room and via webcast from around the country, and many more tuning in for the replay, we knew we had tapped into something important.

Building on that, we’ve now trained 12 menopause advocates around the UK – people passionate about raising awareness of the challenges it can cause in the workplace and wanting to bring about change.

The role of the advocates is to improve understanding and offer support to other staff. For example, an employee might need advice on how to approach their line manager if they are struggling, or a line manager might require some tips on how best they can help a team member.

In addition to our work on changing culture, HSBC has also focused its attention on making some practical changes to the working environment for women coping with menopause symptoms.

We’ve recently launched an updated uniform with a different blend of material and a choice of more relaxed fits. We’ve also made simple changes to the process around uniform supply to make it easier for women who found their body shape had changed as a result of the menopause to request a new size.

Another example of a relatively simple but impactful change we’ve made has been simplifying our policy on desk fans.

Whereas a colleague may have needed a manager’s approval before, they can now order a fan themselves through our procurement services portal. Our new policy covers all staff but we especially promote it to women approaching and within the menopause age.

We’ve also taken steps to train our occupational health team so it is more knowledgeable about the menopause and can be more helpful should a member of staff seek advice via our helpline. We have produced a factsheet that is now available on our global intranet and have reviewed all our HR policies.

While we are proud of the steps we have taken, we know there is more work to do. From new online and in-person training for managers to colleague sessions where all attendees can speak up and discuss experiences of menopause at work, we’re continuing on our journey to be a top menopause-friendly employer.

The author is Alison Shemwell, people support manager at HSBC UK.

This practitioner’s view article features in REBA’s Employee Wellbeing Research 2020. Published together with AXA PPP healthcare, the full research report will be available later this month.  



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