Menopause, its symptoms and its effect on women in the workplace have been really brought into the light over the last 18 months. Some notable celebs, like Davina McCall, have spoken out about their experiences and the effect going through menopause has had on their lives, careers and mental health.
More than 600 employers have signed the Menopause Workplace Pledge, which is part of a campaign by Wellbeing of Women. In signing the pledge, employers recognise that menopause can be a workplace issue for which employees need support. Signatories commit to open, positive and respectful workplace dialogue about menopause and to taking active steps to support employees affected by menopause and informing them of the support offered. Active measures have already been undertaken by some signatories: the Royal Mail has run an internal campaign to normalise conversations about menopause; and Tesco plans to incorporate a breathable fabric into its uniform to help with hot flushes.
Programmes like the Channel 4 documentary and the Wellbeing of Women campaign, have resulted in a cultural shift towards openness about menopause, which is a welcome relief for women experiencing it, and one which, in my opinion, is requiring employers to similarly shift and react.
With that in mind, today on World Menopause Day, I thought it would be helpful to highlight the three main areas that I think are important for employers to consider and address.
- Education - are you aware and discussed, as the HR team, the terminology that you and your colleagues use when discussing menopause and related issues? Are you, and more importantly your colleagues that manage teams and individuals, aware of the legal rights of women going through menopause and the risks associated with mishandling these situations?
- Documentation - the best way to approach the subject and set out your policy, is to have in place appropriate documentation – such as a menopause policy. The menopause policy in my view would have two purposes: 1) to break the taboo that is often associated with menopause so demonstrating to staff that you are 'happy to go there' and discuss their concerns/issues/symptoms; and 2) it helps staff feel supported in whatever they are experiencing. A good policy should confirm what menopause is, what the main symptoms and effects are and then crucially outline what support is available within your organisation and what training and education have been provided to assist managers and other staff to understand menopause and its effects. It would outline who within the organisation is best placed to discuss queries and encourage an atmosphere of greater openness and collaboration.
- Communication - as with all things, documentation is of little use unless it is communicated effectively. Alongside rolling out any documentation, such as the policy, you need to be mindful of how your organisation's approach is communicated to colleagues. I would recommend having sessions to give people the opportunity to ask more questions and learn more. Obviously, these will need to be managed sensitively so women in the organisation do not feel like they are 'on the spot'. Feedback from clients is that often smaller discussion groups are preferable when discussing issues like menopause. The goal is that this issue will become something which over time loses its taboo and is something that people will address openly, in an informed way, and with a view to finding a solution.
The most recent CIPD survey revealed almost three-quarters of employers (72%) do not have a menopause policy and only 16% of employers train line managers on menopause. Our team at ACS would be happy to help if you want any more advice on menopause training, policy drafting or general advice to managing your approach going forward.
Every woman will experience menopause, but how much do we really know about it?