Symptoms of menopause
The menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age (although can arrive earlier for some), and in the UK, the average age for a person to reach the menopause is 51. Symptoms begin in peri-menopause, which is the time before menopause (i.e. when periods stop). On average, most symptoms last around four years, although around one in every 10 people experience them for up to 12 years!
Yet beyond hot flushes, the symptoms of menopause and the effects these can have on people’s lives are not well known. Whilst some people may experience minimal symptoms, the NHS highlights a wide variety including difficulty sleeping, problems with memory and concentration, headaches, and mood changes (such as low mood or anxiety), amongst others.
A 2017 government report into the effects of the menopause on women at work found that:
“Some aspects of work can make symptoms worse – especially hot or poorly ventilated environments, formal meetings and deadlines. The evidence also paints a consistent picture of people in transition, feeling those around them at work are unsympathetic or treat them badly, because of gendered ageism.”
Support for employees
As such, it is important that employers feel equipped to provide appropriate support to employees. Menopause in the Workplace points out that managers do not need to be menopause experts, and it is not the role of a manager to offer medical advice. Awareness of symptoms can be helpful, but not everybody has the same experience of menopause. It’s important to take care not to make assumptions.
If you are concerned about an employee, asking how they are is a good place to start. Ask twice if needed, to show you actually want to know the answer. There is nothing to be embarrassed about, and from an open conversation, you may be able to identify ways to support an employee. By keeping an open mind, it may be possible to identify adjustments (if appropriate) that would really help them to manage their symptoms and their impact on their working life.
Take care with confidentiality, though – it is up to the employee to decide what they want to tell their colleagues. Announcing that you are adjusting the air conditioning because somebody is having a hot flush would not be appropriate!
If you would like to read more, the CIPD have produced a helpful guidance document for managers, which is available here.
If you are an employer who would like to raise awareness, training from specialist providers is also available such as Nicola Green Consultancy.
A duty of care
Employers must remember that they have a legal duty to control the risks to people’s health and safety at work. What is more, employers should remember that employees going through the menopause are likely to be protected under the Equality Act 2010. They will also have statutory (and contractual) leave entitlements related to the menopause.
Menopausal people are facing real challenges in the workplace, and many employers are not sure how to best support them.
Even just talking about the menopause can make a world of difference to someone’s ability to achieve their full potential.
*It’s important to acknowledge that it’s not solely women that suffer the menopause. Non-binary, intersex and people transitioning also go through this life-changing time, so please be aware of this. Men are also said to go through something similar.
Thanks to our blogger…
Thanks to Gemma Murphy, Director of View HR for her hugely topical blog. If you are an employer and are considering reviewing menopausal support for your employees, ViewHR can help you navigate the process. They will help identify solutions to meet the needs of the wider business and understand the employment law implications. Please contact them for an initial discussion – [email protected].
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