People going through menopause are the fastest-growing demographic in the workplace, yet a lack of engagement with women going through this transformative and often debilitating life stage remains a key failure for today’s companies. Despite menopause-related discrimination at work being widely reported, and MPs lobbying the government to mandate employers to provide reasonable adjustments, the truth is that not enough is being done at this stage.
Put simply, a lack of understanding of menopause and its symptoms can lead to discrimination
INvolve’s recent research has uncovered the reality that nearly two-thirds of FTSE 100 companies have not published menopause support policies. While no mandate from the government exists to legally require them to create and report on the progress of such policies, the silence from these companies still rings loud for people who are or will suffer from menopause. Indeed, it begs the question: if support in these top corporations is poor, what is the picture for smaller businesses with fewer resources across the UK?
In what ways does the lack of menopausal workplace support impact women?
Put simply, a lack of understanding of menopause and its symptoms can lead to discrimination. As menopause remains largely a taboo subject in many establishments, people assume the symptoms are more of a hindrance or inconvenience rather than acknowledging the effects of menopause as debilitating for many people. Types of discrimination women are still suffering include unfair dismissal and direct sex discrimination, due to a lack of support and adequate education.
Failing to address the needs of women going through menopause effectively puts their career development at risk. Women generally reach menopause in their early 50s, which coincides with the period of their careers when they are striving for leadership roles. Without the support they require, those going through menopause may become disengaged at work, passing up promotions or reducing their hours.
Figures show that 10% even leave the workplace entirely due to menopausal symptoms and a lack of support – right at the peak of their professional experiences. This is an entirely avoidable barrier to women reaching more senior positions, exacerbating the gender pay gap and leading to women feeling less accomplished at work.
It’s time they step up, implement robust menopause support policies, and ensure they are publicly visible for maximum impact
How can we work to make workplaces more inclusive environments for women?
The responsibility of creating more inclusive working environments for everyone, including women, should be a priority that business leaders drive from the top. While the case for a mandate only grows stronger, businesses shouldn’t rely on compulsory reporting or targets set by the government to implement menopause support policies. Business leaders must be at the forefront of driving change and ensuring that our workplaces are more inclusive and that they allow everyone to succeed.
With the FTSE 100 then lies the obligation to set high standards and a good example for other businesses to follow. They should be providing the very best workplace environments for their employees, consequently setting the bar high for other businesses in the UK. It’s time they step up, implement robust menopause support policies, and ensure they are publicly visible for maximum impact. Such policies could include health and safety adjustments, sickness absence, flexible working, and performance management to consider the impact of most menopausal symptoms.
Company leadership can work with experts to facilitate an inclusive environment through company training, menopause-focused events, and information sessions. This ensures that everyone is engaged and feels comfortable talking about menopause at work and that the policies are employed to their full potential.
Employees need to work together to foster inclusive cultures where open conversations about menopause are encouraged, and not only behind closed doors or between women. The key thing at an individual level is to ensure any conversation with a colleague about menopause can take place without shame and instead with care, compassion, and support.
Businesses have a responsibility to join wider conversations and encourage staff to speak openly and shamelessly about menopause
As demonstrated above, companies and individuals in the UK can work together to break the stigma of menopause and ensure that all individuals are supported. Businesses have a responsibility to join wider conversations and encourage staff to speak openly and shamelessly about menopause. Work should feel like a safe space for all, and no one should feel they need to conceal such a substantial part of their lives.
It would be naïve to believe such change can happen overnight. However, robust and easily accessible support should be the norm. Half of the population will go through menopause, likely at a crucial moment in their professional career, and it is undeniable that they should feel supported and empowered as they do.
Interested in this topic? Read Time to talk menopause at work: A shock to the system.