Understanding the needs of menopausal women is “vital” for employers

With an increasingly open conversation about the menopause in the UK, many more British employers are keen to offer the right support for women in the workplace.

The estimated number of women currently peri-menopausal or menopausal in the UK stands at 13 million, which is one-third of the entire female population. In the core age groups of 45 to 55, and 50 to 64, figures show that 80 per cent and 71 per cent respectively are employed in full-time or part-time roles.

Yet there are still some stark statistics which reveal that not enough is understood about ‘the change’ – nor is enough being offered by employers in terms of support.

A recent report revealed that almost one-third of working women aged 50 to 64 are reluctantly taking time out of the working week to alleviate menopausal symptoms. Across the year, this is estimated to add up to a total productivity loss among the UK female workforce of 14 million working days.

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    What’s more, research by Health & Her, an independent HR news and information resource, found that 370,000 working women in the UK aged between 50 and 64 admitted they have left, or considered leaving their career, because dealing with menopause symptoms in the workplace was too difficult.

    Next month, a free-to-attend Managing Menopause event, organised by Business in the Community (BITC) and hosted by law firm DWF in Glasgow, invites business leaders and managers to find out more about menopause in the workplace and the benefits of supporting female staff.

    Alan Thornburrow, Scotland director for BITC, a network that promotes responsible business, says: “Employers are increasingly aware that they need to know the health and wellbeing implications of the menopause in order to effectively manage an ageing, gender-equal workforce of the future.

    “We organise our events to offer businesses a greater understanding of what they can do – and we also provide a useful toolkit accessible through our website.”

    Caroline Colliston, of DWF, who sits on the advisory board of BITC, adds that creating an inclusive workplace culture, where staff of all ages and both genders feel respected and supported, is part of being a responsible employer.

    She says: “In the case of the menopause, there are many ways to give support such as better understanding from managers, open communication and flexible working, as well as more practical solutions including places where women can freshen up, and uniforms made of the right materials.”

    One of the guest speakers at the event is Lauren Chiren, who knows first-hand how massively the menopause can impact employees. She was so severely affected by the symptoms of an early menopause that she had little choice but to give up a successful career in financial services when she was in her early 40s.

    Chiren has retrained since then and established Women of a Certain Stage, an organisation which coaches and mentors women to maintain peak performance throughout the menopause, as well as educating employers on the topic.

    She says: “It’s vital that modern businesses, of all sizes, understand the needs and requirements of female staff throughout the menopause years.”

    Chiren reveals four main benefits for employers who create clear policies, education and practices in association with the menopause.

    She says: “Firstly, businesses must be aware of the legal implications of discrimination against menopausal women as covered under the Equality Act of 2010.

    “Secondly, there is a very strong business case for the retention of staff, including women, especially when you consider the average cost of replacing an employee is around £37,000.

    “In addition, there is a demographic employment argument. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics reveal that women aged 50 to 64 are the fastest growing economically active group so it is short-sighted of employers not to support this group of women.”

    Finally, Lauren believes that for employers, supporting women through the menopause “is simply the right thing to do”.

    She says: “Women give years of dedicated service and often they are the ones who step up and go above and beyond their roles in the workplace, so there should be more support through the years of menopause when many women struggle to work as effectively as they might wish to.

    “Being an educated employer on the issues of the menopause makes a great deal of sense.”

    What is the menopause?

    he menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. It’s a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between the age of 45 and 55, when oestrogen levels decline.

    In the UK, the average age for women to reach the menopause is 51. However, the symptoms can continue for up to 15 years afterwards and there is also a stage called peri-menopause that can start in the late 30s.

    The symptoms total more than 30 and vary widely from woman to woman but can include hot sweat, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, lack of concentration, memory loss, migraines and weight gain.

    Many find the process of the menopause impacts on both their home and work lives.

    Event Managing Menopause

    Wednesday, October 30, 2019

    1.30pm to 4.30pm

    DWF, Queen Street, Glasgow


    Join Business in the Community (BITC) Scotland to find out how you can ensure your business is ready, willing and able to support women experiencing menopause.

    The event is aimed at HR professionals, health and safety managers, chief executives and directors, and diversity and inclusion professionals.

    More details at: www.bitc.org.uk/awards-events/events/managing-menopause

    This article first appeared in The Scotsman’s autumn Vision magazine 2019. A digital version can be found here.