Time to talk

18 Oct 21 The Tilt Team

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Why companies need to better support their people going through the menopause…

If someone mentions the menopause, what comes to mind? Hot flushes, almost certainly. Firstly because it’s probably the most well-known symptom of the menopause and secondly, because it is often portrayed as a comical cliché of the ‘change of life’.

But for many of those going through the hot flushes – and the litany of other symptoms – associated with the perimenopause and the menopause itself, it’s not a laughing matter.

These symptoms can lead to time off work, passing up promotions, and even leaving jobs, says Dr Louise Newson, lead expert on new research from not-for-profit Newson Health Research and Education.

A staggering 99 per cent of the 3,800 people surveyed in the UK felt that their perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms led to a negative impact on their careers, with more than a third describing the impact as significant.

If that isn’t disappointing enough, 60 per cent of people surveyed said that their workplace offers no menopause support.

A workplace taboo

You could say that the existence of gender bias and misogyny has a lot to do with it. There are fears among people that:

  • Discussing menopause will see them perceived negatively in the workplace. For example, that they’re ‘getting on’ and maybe less useful.
  • If they talk about their menopause symptoms with their line manager or HR department, that they will be subjected to ridicule, harassment, or stereotyping. Their experiences can be seen as a ‘change of life joke’ in the office.
  • Sharing may mean managers, clients, and teams assume that they won’t perform as well as they should, and as a result, promotions will be withheld and they could be targeted as ‘the first to go’ during any redundancies.
  • If menopause symptoms are discussed, that they’re expected to just ‘get on with it’ as they would during severe menstrual cramps or life-altering pregnancy symptoms — a learnt behaviour of sorts.

A changing world

A changing world

Peppy, a digital health and wellness platform supported by the University of Sheffield, claims that 54 per cent of UK companies don’t currently have any dedicated menopause support in place — but 21 per cent of these same companies said they were planning to introduce specific support within the next 12 months, with 67 per cent of these companies saying they would at least go on to offer some sort of support (e.g. employee assistance programme, education courses, or events).

High profile global companies are beginning to take note. ASOS recently announced an annual 10 days’ paid menopause leave, as well as flexible working options, as they look to support employees who are ‘going through health-related life events’. Bupa has also launched a menopause helpline for its employees, an extension of its existing menopause support service, offering access to menopause-trained nurses for advice and guidance on managing symptoms. And today, on World Menopause Day, ITV has announced that it’s launching its own policy.

This follows guidance from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) that companies “should aim to create a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture, and adopt managerial styles that make those with symptoms of the menopause feel comfortable requesting support”.

Brain fog

A way forward

So, how do you start talking about menopause and support people in your workplace?

Enhance your education

Companies can put holistic, effective management, and practical resources in place — digitally and physically — to help increase knowledge and understanding of menopause. This is especially helpful for line managers or colleagues. These resources need to explain what it is, how it affects people, and what can be done to support those affected. In a workplace that doesn’t support this type of initiative, people can endure further stress and anxiety on top of perimenopause and menopause symptoms.

Empathise with one another

Companies can build empathy into their culture, which in turns helps people going through menopause. If a workplace culture encourages colleagues to talk about their personal experiences, then that same culture must encourage being listened to, a space for these vital conversations, and empathy for one another. Changing the subject or dismissing a colleague’s perimenopause or menopause concerns can be devastating to that person’s self-esteem and confidence.

Check your workplace policy

Companies must ensure that they have a menopause policy in place, which is practically non-existent in most workplaces. Human resources, culture and wellbeing, and learning and development teams are critical in enabling this type of policy. If your company doesn’t have a menopause policy in place, then be proactive and shape it where you can.

The following information may help you do so: The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 says an employer must, where reasonably practical, ensure health, safety and welfare at work. This will involve carrying out a health and safety risk assessment with a view to ensuring menopausal symptoms are not made worse by the workplace and/or its work practices, and making changes to help a worker manage their symptoms.

Time to listen, empathise, act

It’s time to learn, empathise, and act

With Google searches relating to menopause up by +70 per cent in the last 12 months, it’s time to start talking and learning about the menopause within the workplace. It’s only then that we’ll see it being taken seriously.

People going through the menopause are the fastest-growing portion of the UK workforce and they need to be retained, supported, and feel able to speak up in the workplace. This not only improves their quality of life, physically, and mentally, but allows them to progress in the careers that they have worked decades to build.

Need help raising awareness and supporting colleagues about the menopause or any other wellbeing issues affecting your people? We help drive changes in behaviour around important issues such as this; everything from mental health to challenging the stigma around life-limiting illness and sex.Get in touch with our business development manager, Emma, to discuss your needs.

Written by:
Lou Whitfield, senior creative strategist at Tilt.

Edited and curated by:
Sophie Robehmed, creative producer at Tilt.