HR Consultancy Corner: Creating a menopause-inclusive workplace
There’s no doubt that the menopause and its impact at work is being discussed far more openly now and, in turn, businesses are starting to switch on to this wellbeing issue.
The menopause effects women usually somewhere between the ages of 40 and 60. It most commonly affects women between the ages of 45 and 55 and the average age at which women reach the menopause is 51. The symptoms typically last for around four years, but can last for up to 12 years.
Approximately 80% of women in the UK will experience some menopausal symptoms (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). Symptoms of the menopause include:
- hot flushes and night sweats;
- feeling the heart racing and palpitations;
- difficulty sleeping;
- changes in mood, such as feeling tired, irritable, depressed or anxious;
- difficulty concentrating;
- poor memory; and
- urinary problems, such as recurrent urinary tract infections and loss of bladder control.
These symptoms can have a significant impact on an employee’s attendance and performance at work. For example, an employee on a telephone helpline may find it difficult to do their work if they are experiencing hot flushes and profuse sweating, but are unable to leave their workstation.
What can you do to make the workplace more menopause friendly?
Step 1: Review policies and procedures
Make sure you have a policy that discusses menopause in the workplace. The policy should give guidance on the support available. Ensure this policy is circulated amongst all staff and, importantly, your managers to help them understand their responsibilities. This will re-assure those in this stage of their life that if they disclose their menopause symptoms they will be dealt with in an understanding manner.
Re-evaluate your existing workplace policies
Ensure that your working practices don’t inadvertently create extra barriers for employees experiencing menopausal symptoms. For example, do your existing policies adequately cover and support employees that may require adjustments such as temporary flexible working, short-term absence and performance management, or do you have a policy such as uniform or dress code that adversely impacts employees experiencing menopausal symptoms?
Step 2: Training
Your staff may be unaware of the common symptoms of the menopause and are therefore unable to appreciate the impact these symptoms may have on their colleagues. Likewise they may not appreciate the fluctuating nature of symptoms. Training can help to foster an open environment in which women feel able to disclose that they are being affected by menopause symptoms. Let us know if you would like us to run a training session for you.
Specific training for line managers on the menopause and how to manage and support employees transitioning through the menopause can help to reduce the risk that employees will resign and/or bring Tribunal claims. Better trained managers will adhere to menopause policies and procedures and feel more comfortable navigating this topic. In addition, you should encourage managers to be flexible about how they can help employees and discuss options with each particular employee.
Step 3: Support
Make sure employees know how to access support and that this is well publicised. There are many external organisations that will provide useful guidance and support to those experiencing menopause symptoms. If you have access to occupational health or an EAP, they will have invaluable knowledge to support employees and the business.
Publicise what support and the main adjustments you will consider as an organisation. This can encourage employees to raise their menopause symptoms and ask for adjustments they may not have even considered.
Consider asking for volunteers to be a menopause champion in the workplace, or ensure that your Mental Health First Aiders are trained in supporting employee’s experiencing menopause symptoms.
Step 4: Adjustments
The most common types of menopause claims seen in the Employment Tribunals are disability related. You should look at the impact that the menopause symptoms are having on the employee, to consider if your duty to make Reasonable Adjustments arises.
Under Health and Safety legislation employers should include employees experiencing menopause symptoms in their assessment. Employers could consider relatively inexpensive and effective adjustments to the workplace which can make a significant difference to symptoms. These include desk fans and access to quiet and private space.
How we can help you
Let us help you put processes in place to ensure your legal compliance.
We can provide you with:
- training for your teams and managers
- drafting a standalone Menopause Policy or integrate into a Wellbeing Policy; and
- provide case-by-case advice and support where high levels of absence or performance issues arise.