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20 Nov 2023
by Dr Subashini M.

4 ways to support employees going through menopause

Dr Subashini M, Aviva UK Health Medical Director, discusses ways to support employees experiencing menopause and help them stay in work

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While three-quarters of employers (74%) feel equipped to support employees with menopause symptoms, less than half of employees feel comfortable talking to anyone at work about it (47%), according to recent Aviva research. Furthermore, one in 10 people going through menopause leave the workforce because of the challenges they face.

For employers, this not only means potentially losing valued employees, it also means the cost of replacing them. And this business reality comes from a wholly natural condition that affects around 13 million people in the UK at any given time.

Yet, there is much that employers can do, including tailoring support to the needs of employees. This may fundamentally change the working experiences of those going through menopause and create a more inclusive workforce.

Developing tailored support is especially relevant for menopause because the symptoms can last for years, and they’re experienced differently by individuals. This can include hot flushes, aches and pains, tiredness, irregular or heavy periods and problems sleeping. Psychologically, this can also include mood swings, memory issues, anxiety and lack of confidence. And all of these symptoms can affect performance and happiness at work.

While employers have a duty of care, making sure all reasonable adjustments are made for employees experiencing menopause, it’s also in their interest to help. It makes good business sense to create a working environment that makes it easier for workers to perform to the best of their ability.

To encourage this type of working environment, consider these four steps to support your employees going through the menopause

1. Review your policies

Whether your HR policies currently include provisions for menopause, or they still need working through, it’s important to identify the support on offer. Depending on your business and employee needs, it may be more appropriate to create a specific policy relating to menopause.

This could help employees understand what support they can expect and it can signal to potential employees that your business is gender and age inclusive with a focus on wellbeing.

2. Provide mental health support

The links between menopause and mental health are clear, with studies showing that it “increases vulnerability to depression and anxiety”.

And although it can be challenging to determine the underlying cause of poor mental health, hormonal changes could be one of many factors. Whether it’s from struggling with a lack of sleep or changes in personal circumstances, a decline in mental health may be a further result of menopause.

Giving line managers the skills, tools, and information they need to identify and address signs of worsening mental health can foster a supportive business culture. It also means managers are primed to tackle any issues before they can lead to more serious problems or, potentially, long absences from work.

3. Highlight health resources

Creating a menopause resource hub, and regularly raising awareness with employees, can help them feel more supported. The hub may also include external guidance for those who feel their symptoms need further medical support.

An employee assistance program could include information from external voluntary organisations or support groups that offer specialist guidance on managing menopause symptoms.

The point is to provide a variety of resources and use different methods to capture employee attention. In other words, not just a poster on the notice board. Showing employees that their wellbeing and menopause experience matters to you is crucial.

4. Offer practical support and flexibility

Encouraging employees’ comfort at work can reassure them that you’re sensitive to their needs. These measures could include:

  • Offering flexible working for those who are suffering menopause symptoms, such as poor sleep. This may be dictated by business needs and workloads, but it could have a significant impact on an employee’s productivity.
  • Communicating clearly about taking short rest breaks, or arranging different meeting options, if employee symptoms are causing them difficulty. Employees should feel safe to take a rest break or be comfortable in meetings based on their menopausal needs.
  • Relaxing dress codes to allow for looser clothing that may help with hot flushes.
  • Adjusting an employee’s working environment by providing a fan or making sure they can sit closer to a window to help them keep cool.

Speaking with your employees thoughtfully and compassionately, listening to their specific needs and developing a plan with them may affect more than their comfort at work.

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