The government has recently announced an important step towards supporting those experiencing menopause in the workplace. In July, an invitation was given to The Women’s Health Ambassador, Dame Lesley Regan, to take a seat on the UK Menopause Taskforce as a permanent member. She, along with newly announced Menopause Employment Champions, will work closely with the Minister for Employment to promote conversations around menopause in the workplace.
Unlike pregnancy and maternity, menopause is not as widely understood within workplace culture
I welcome this decision and feel that it marks a moment for all organisations to reflect and think about why this issue needs to be addressed. The figures around the impact of menopause are stark: one in four women consider giving up work because of menopause and almost one million have left the workplace due to menopause-related symptoms. And without businesses backing the campaign to break the menopause taboo I’m concerned we’ll see millions more prematurely leave the workplace, adding to the estimated £30-39bn cost to GDP of skills shortages.
Why employers need to wake up to menopause
Unlike pregnancy and maternity, menopause is not as widely understood within workplace culture, creating a negative impact on businesses as well as employees. Taking an extended period of leave or exiting the workforce entirely due to menopause exacerbates the gender pensions pay gap and damages women’s financial futures. Now is the time for employers to step up their support for those experiencing menopause and prevent women from feeling like they must choose between their work and their health.
We have close to four million women aged 45-55 in work in the UK – and that number is rapidly increasing – meaning there are few workplaces where menopause is not being experienced by staff. Women leaving the workforce also leads to a loss of skills and diversity across the business, affecting productivity and capacity, as well as the wider economy, while also adding additional costs to employers through having to rehire and retrain.
How can employers take action?
The 50Plus Choice Employer Taskforce made up of employer organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development and Federation of Small Business, published a report entitled ‘Menopause and Employment; How to enable fulfilling working lives’ that highlighted the significant role employers play in supporting those who experience the menopause. It offers actionable recommendations to bring about real change, including a call for an employer-led campaign.
It is a challenging time for businesses with inflating costs and a tight labour market
Employer-led initiatives will be critical in improving the experience of menopause in the workplace. While some businesses may already be on a path to implement initiatives, others may be looking for guidance on how they can provide better support. Below are four ways employers can take steps to better support those going through menopause. These are by no means extensive but offer guidance for those looking to take the first step:
- Normalise the conversation around menopause in the workplace. This needs to be a top-down initiative and is an important step in breaking down the taboo around a topic that is unfamiliar to many
- Secondly, specific training for managers, who are often the first port of call when employees need support, to understand how the mense affects individuals in different ways, as well as highlighting organisations that individuals can be signposted to if they want to receive further help
- Businesses should also review their existing workplace policies and consider which could be made more menopause-friendly. Advocating flexible and hybrid working, enhanced sick leave, performance reviews and workplace adjustments will all help to ensure that those going through menopause feel better supported
- Creating dedicated returner programmes to highlight post-menopausal opportunities are also an effective way to reverse the trend of older people leaving the workforce prematurely, as well as bringing back those who may have left the workforce due to previous negative experiences
Within Phoenix Group we are already taking steps to encourage open discussions around menopause, with an ongoing menopause awareness campaign as well as training for all our colleagues. Like many other businesses, we are on a journey to understanding how we best address any workplace stigma around menopause.
Navigating the path forward
It is a challenging time for businesses with inflating costs and a tight labour market. Understandably, implementing initiatives to support those going through menopause may fall to the bottom of the pile when grappling with high energy prices and supply chain costs.
More support for these workers means we will see fewer people leave the labour market prematurely
While supporting those who experience menopause will not eradicate all of these issues. Creating a menopause-friendly workplace tackles some of the root causes of the labour market crisis and helps to mitigate against the effects of some of the other challenges business face.
More support for these workers means we will see fewer people leave the labour market prematurely. Better support will mean a greater diversity of thought within our businesses, leading to greater productivity and improved results. And better support for employees will mean better financial futures for women and a more prosperous economic outlook.
The appointment of Menopause Employment Champions is an important first step from the government, but – for these reasons and many others besides – it is now down to businesses to fully play their part as well.