Health Assured, the providers of our Employee Assistance Programme, explain the importance of supporting employees who are experiencing the menopause.
How you can support employees during the menopause
Research shows that 88% of female workers who have experienced menopausal symptoms, felt like it has affected their working life.¹
The menopause can affect many areas of a woman’s life and it doesn’t have an on or an off switch. For some women, menopausal symptoms can last up to ten years, although every woman and their experience is different. Most women however, will experience some, if not all the typical menopause symptoms for several years, affecting confidence, concentration, sleep and mental health. Understandably then, work-life can also become difficult.
Employers must begin to support their employees through the menopause and break the stigma in the workplace. This guide will cover why employer awareness is essential, how the menopause can affect work and what employers can do to better support employees.
The menopause is a natural part of ageing – it happens to all women. It tends to affect women between the ages of 45 and 55 when oestrogen levels begin to decline. But some women can experience premature menopause which starts before the age of 40. This makes up a large proportion of workers in the UK who are suffering from menopausal symptoms right now.
How can the menopause affect work-life?
The menopause can affect a person’s mental, physical, emotional, and physiological wellbeing. The symptoms can often be severe and can show up in day-to-day life. Most women will experience some or all of the symptoms below for around four years from their last period. But for some women, these symptoms can start years before their period stops. And around 1 in 10 women will experience these symptoms for up to 12 years.²
Symptoms of the menopause include:
- Hot flushes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Joint stiffness, aches and pains
- Reduced muscle mass
- Mood changes such as low mood or anxiety
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
This list isn’t exhaustive, so it’s clear to see how a woman’s work-life can quickly become a struggle. Headaches, hot flushes, concentration problems and anxiety can all cause issues at work. Depending on the job role, these symptoms can have varying impacts on an employee’s ability to carry out daily tasks. Without consistent support, employees may feel frustrated, deflated, and exhausted.
There are various treatments available for these symptoms. Some of the more popular ones include hormone replacement therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. It’s important to bear in mind that employees may need time off work for menopause-related GP, therapy or counselling appointments.
Breaking the stigma
The menopause often comes with a stigma. It’s misunderstood, underacknowledged and unapproached in the workplace. A survey by UNISON (2019) found that the menopause remains a ‘taboo’ subject in the UK and something women and men don’t always feel comfortable talking about.³ Now we know that the menopause is having such a big impact on women—it’s time this changed once and for all.
Why is employer awareness important?
So why do employers need to know this? Well, studies by BMC Public Health (2018) show that most people spend almost two-thirds of their waking hours in the workplace.⁴ Work takes up a huge chunk of time for women experiencing the menopause. If employers support employees, it could help them to cope better with what can be an extremely difficult time in their lives. In turn, it could result in a better work performance, reduced sickness absence rates and improved morale.
How can employers support employees during the menopause?
Looking after employee wellbeing contributes to a productive, happy and successful workplace and this includes supporting women during the menopause. Because symptoms of the menopause can fluctuate, it’s best to talk to employees on an individual basis. When you’re aware an employee is going through the menopause, arrange a meeting with them to see if there’s any way you can support. Here are some adjustments you could consider offering:
- Provide fans or air conditioning
- Be understanding if employees need to take time off for GP appointments
- Allow employees to take regular breaks
- Provide a rest area
- Move the employee’s desk closer to a window or ventilation system
- Allow them to work from home when required
- Consider flexible working hours
- Allow employees time off if they are struggling with symptoms that day
They might be small changes, but they could make a big difference to work satisfaction levels. When employees feel supported at work, they are less likely to need time off for mental and physical health issues.⁵ Their experience of the menopause is more likely to improve, and as a result their workload may be easier to manage too.
Menopause training for line managers
As the stigma of the menopause prevails, women may feel uncomfortable talking about their own personal experience in conversations at work. Training for line managers can help to educate staff and break the stigma in the workplace. When managers are well-informed and well-equipped, it makes it easier for employees to approach the subject. It can also help workplaces to improve their policies.
Signpost to help
If your organisation has an employee assistance programme (EAP) in place, make sure you’re signposting employees to it. This service can provide support with the emotional issues they might be facing. Employees can often access specialist counselling quicker than via their GP or private practices. Counselling can help employees cope with the daily demands of life during the menopause. This service can also assist line managers in dealing with menopause issues at work.
Raising awareness, breaking the stigma and supporting employees through the menopause starts one workplace at a time. Use the information in this guide to better the lives of your employees, managers and business as a whole.
To find out more about how an EAP can support the health and wellbeing of your employees call Sovereign Health Care on 01274 841127, email email@example.com or visit sovereignhealthcare.co.uk/business
¹ Wales TUC Cymru. 2017. The menopause: A workplace issue. Wales TUC Cymru. Available at: https://www.tuc.org.uk/research-analysis/reports/menopause-workplace-issue-wales-tuc [Accessed September 8, 2021].
² NHS. 2018. Menopause. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/ [Accessed 23 September 2021].
³ UNISON. 2019. The menopause is a workplace issue: guidance and model policy. UNISON. Available at: https://www.unison.org.uk/content/uploads/2019/10/25831.pdf [Accessed September 8, 2021].
⁴ Quirk, H. et al., 2018. Barriers and facilitators to implementing workplace health and Wellbeing services in the NHS from the perspective of senior leaders and wellbeing Practitioners: A qualitative study. BMC Public Health. Available at: https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-018-6283-y#Abs1 [Accessed September 2, 2021].
⁵ Ayling, L. and Suff, R., 2021. Absence measurement and management. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, p.6.