Did you know that menopausal symptoms, which can last between 4 to 8 years, can have a substantial adverse effect on day-to-day activities and, in some severe cases, meet the legal definition of a disability under the Equality Act 2010?
Remember, menopause can be a stressful time for people and the majority do not disclose menopause-related health problems to managers, especially if they are men, younger than them or if work practices and environments are perceived to be non-inclusive.
10 things you can do as an employer to ensure you are doing the best for your staff.
- Do not disclose the menopause status of an individual unless they have expressly agreed to this. Sometimes menopause attracts workplace ‘banter’ which can be offensive, embarrassing and causes stress.
- Being non-judgemental and listening to staff. Help by communicating that health-related problems during menopause are regular and routine. Listen to staff about the difficulties they are having and convey that symptoms may vary widely from one person to another. Provide reassurance and options. Do not shut down conversations because you are uncomfortable.
- Distribute information and provide diverse people to get support from. All people at work should be given information on how they can ask for support for any issues that arise as a result of menopause. Some people may find it uncomfortable going to their line manager so other options should be made available to them.
- Review working hours and arrangements. Consider flexible working hours or shift changes to reduce the stress of menopause. If sleep is regularly disturbed, later start times may be helpful.
- Review sickness absence procedures. Make it clear that procedures are flexible enough to cater for menopause-related sickness. Ensure that people experience no detriment if they need time off.
- Regularly assess the workplace environment. Review the temperature and ventilation and see how these can be managed to meet the needs of individuals. This can include having an electric fan or locating a workstation away from a heat source and near a window that can open. Provide access to cool drinking water in all work situations including off site areas. These measures are helpful for managing and reducing a range of symptoms.
- Improve working conditions. If the job requires constant standing ensure there is a rest area for breaks to sit down. If the role is sedentary with prolonged sitting, ensure there is access to space to move about and for additional breaks when needed.
- Public-facing roles and access to quiet areas. Short breaks to manage a severe or uncomfortable hot flush in a quiet area should be enabled. For some, hot flushes are a source of embarrassment/distress.
- Uniforms and clothing. If uniforms are compulsory, flexibility can be helpful. This can include the use of thermally comfortable fabrics, optional layers and being allowed to remove jackets. Providing routine access to changing facilities can also be helpful.
- Keeping informed and asking for guidance. Additional considerations and adjustments may be required for specific occupations or locations. Discuss with other teams such as Occupational Health.
Reading for managers: Menopause transition UK research report 2017