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01 Mar 2019

How can employers support women through the menopause

The menopause; perhaps the last great taboo. Many people don’t even feel comfortable saying the word ‘menopause’ out loud. Hands up who still calls it ‘the change’? This attitude towards the menopause has a profound effect. 

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A report published by the Government Equalities Office cites a risk of ridicule and gendered ageism for menopausal employees, and reveals that many women call in sick to avoid experiencing symptoms at work. Shockingly, a quarter of women have considered quitting their jobs because of the menopause.

Guidance around pregnancy and maternity is plentiful and clear. But for the menopause, it’s distinctly lacking. There are a handful of great examples of employers who have provision for the menopause in place; Marks and Spencer, the University of Leicester and the Nottinghamshire Police Service are among the pioneers.

Menopause symptoms can be debilitating for many women; hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, problems with concentration and memory, and mood changes are just some of the symptoms that can be experienced. And they can continue for an average of four years. According to the NHS, the menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. These ages fit well within a typical working life, so it’s imperative for employers to take action to support women through the transition. Here is a three-point action plan for you to consider when developing strategies to support women through the menopause:

  1. Education
    There is clear work to be done around de-stigmatising the menopause. Stigma often comes from lack of understanding, so it starts with helping everyone in the organisation (women and men, employees and managers) understand exactly what the menopause is. Creating internal campaigns that explain the biology of the menopause, what the symptoms are and how they can affect women, will help normalise it. In turn, this encourages more open and honest conversations, allowing people to talk about the menopause with confidence.

    For women going through the menopause, it’s important to communicate about what support is available to them – through work and external health services. And it’s important for men to be involved to, so they know how they can support their female colleagues. Women could also benefit greatly from a menopause support group within work, to allow them to share their experiences in a safe environment.

  2. Flexible working
    Insomnia and other physical symptoms of the menopause can really take their toll, so flexible working arrangements are key to help women cope. Make sure all employees know that the right to request flexible working is available to them, and be clear about how women could use flexible working methods to support them through the menopause transition.

    For example, flexibility around working hours or patterns can support women who might be struggling with sleep problems. Where possible, employees should also have the option to work from a comfortable location such as from home or remotely, to help alleviate symptoms. Or if roles are location-specific, employers could consider providing a quiet, private space for employees to take a break during work, if they need it.

  3. Employee assistance programmes
    The menopause can impact mental health in a number of ways. Anxiety, depression and mood swings are all common symptoms of the menopause because of changes to hormone levels, and women often report feeling a lack of confidence too. Employees experiencing these struggles should be encouraged to make use of things like employee assistance programmes, counselling services or GP access.

    This links strongly back to the communication piece; reminding people of what health benefits are available through work, and ensuring managers know where to direct an employee to for further support. These services will allow them to speak to a health professional and get valuable information about treatments and therapies that can help with their symptoms.

We have made it okay to talk about other previously taboo topics like mental health, LGBT+ issues, single parents. We need to do the same with the menopause. It’s a natural part of life and something that all women will experience at some point. Women should never feel like they have to suffer in silence, and younger women need to be aware of what to expect when they reach the menopause. After all, where mental ill health affects one in four people1, the menopause will affect half of all humans on the planet.

This article is provided by Simplyhealth.

In partnership with Simplyhealth

Our health plans make it easy for people to maintain their health&wellbeing.

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