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06 Oct 2022
by Gosia Bowling, Brendan Street

Menopause needs better support in the workplace

With World Menopause Day on 18 October, a recent study shows the lack of knowledge about the menopause and how it affects sufferers in the workplace – and wrecks careers

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Although all women face going through menopause, there is still a clear gap in knowledge and support. This leads to the menopause failing to get the recognition and understanding that it should in both society and the workplace.

Currently around 13 million women are perimenopausal or menopausal in the UK. That’s one-third of the entire UK female population. Women make up 51% of the current UK workforce and are the fastest growing workforce demographic. Despite this, the challenges and difficulties faced by those experiencing the menopause in the workplace remain largely invisible, undiscussed and unsupported.

Nuffield Health’s head of emotional wellbeing Gosia Bowling and head of charity Brendan Street have been involved in a pioneering educational research project with Manchester Metropolitan University. The programme aims to increase visibility and change perception of the menopause along with supporting those experiencing it and their managers/colleagues in the workplace.

Research reveals a lack of knowledge

A recent study found that more than half of women surveyed could only name three of the 48 symptoms associated with the menopause. In addition, 49% couldn’t name any phases of the menopause, even when prompted, and almost half hard not heard the term perimenopause. As a result, two in three women indicated that they were shocked and unprepared for the menopause when it did occur.

Invisibility and lack of support in the workplace

In the workplace, just one in five women believe their employer is well informed about the menopause. More than 50% of menopausal women said their employer knew nothing or very little about the mental or emotional effects of the menopause.

Yet, around eight in 10 women will experience noticeable symptoms of the menopause, with 45% reporting these as difficult to manage and affecting their ability to work. As such, many individuals could benefit from workplace flexibility, but may not seek help due to embarrassment and stigma.

Those who do seek help do not always get support from managers. Ongoing symptoms may mean they may miss out on training or development opportunities, feel they need to reduce hours, lose confidence and see pay levels drop, contributing to a widening gender pay gap. Consequently, one in four women consider resigning from their roles during the menopause, with up to 10% resigning.

Therefore sadly 41% of individuals experiencing the menopause stated that they felt ‘lonely, invisible, irrelevant or dispensable’.

Mind the gap

Those experiencing the menopause say there’s a gap in knowledge and support:

• 95% of individuals experiencing the menopause stated that they would benefit from their friends and family being better informed.

• 88% would like workplaces to be better set up to support the menopause.

• 94% of individuals going through the menopause said they would benefit from society being more open to talking about the menopause.

How to make meaningful change

The way menopause is portrayed needs to broaden massively from the current perspective.
Support and encourage men to act as allies for women experiencing the menopause.

We need to reframe menopause in the workplace, at home and in the community, as discussed in Nuffield Health’s menopause in the workplace webinar.

The way in which the menopause is perceived, experienced and supported in the workplace and society needs to change, starting with both the voices and resources in the workplace to make this happen.

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In partnership with Nuffield Health

Nuffield Health are the UK's largest healthcare charity & the market leader in corporate healthcare.

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