Loch Associates

With millions on the receiving end of menopause symptoms, Pam Loch of Loch Associates believes now is the time to place the issue on every business’ wellbeing policies

 

Thinning hair, brain fog, night sweats, anxiety and migraines are only some of the many different symptoms of menopause. Lasting on average between four and seven years, menopause can have a significant impact on life, challenging an individual’s ability to enjoy daily life, maintain relationships and perform at work.

Many employers are waking up to this and realising they should be doing more to support their employees. However, sometimes the approach taken can do more harm than good. Avanti West Coast decided to give a ‘gift’ to its employees which included a paperclip “to help you keep it all together” and a jelly baby “in case you feel like biting someone’s head off” and more. A post was made about it on the social media platform ‘X’ and has received over 340,000 views so far. So, what can employers do to help support their teams cope with menopause?

While menopause affects women, usually in midlife (generally between 45 and 55), it can also affect trans men and younger individuals due to early and premature menopause, possibly as a result of certain medications. It doesn’t just impact those individuals going through it though, but also their wider network, including family, friends and colleagues.

Some of the symptoms have a direct knock-on impact to colleagues e.g. disturbed sleep, which could impact their performance at work. There’s also coping with the additional stress that mood swings can bring to relationships which can be distracting but also have a physical impact too. Employers who recognise and are empathetic towards their employees who are impacted by menopause, will benefit from employees who feel valued but also by reducing absences as a direct result of taking a more forward-thinking approach. What can employers do to be like that?

 

Raising awareness

Having a menopause policy in place sends a powerful message to your staff. Menopause cafés or workshops can help employees understand menopause better. Not only will this increase understanding amongst the workforce, but it can also help normalise the topic, removing stigma and taboo and fostering greater empathy amongst colleagues.

 

Flexible working arrangements

Fatigue and sleep disturbances are common symptoms of menopause, so providing flexibility as to start and finish times, working hours and remote working can enable employees to manage their symptoms effectively without compromising productivity. That also applies to family members affected by menopause who may be getting less sleep than normal.

 

Adjustments

Practical adjustments can help keep staff comfortable and happy at work. Consider options for individualised temperature-controls (think fans or personal space heaters), reviewing uniform and dress codes and providing access to technology to assist with memory difficulties and reduced concentration.

 

Employee assistance programmes

Employee assistance programmes are a valuable resource where menopause is concerned, providing access to confidential counselling and other useful support services. Wellness programmes focusing on nutrition, exercise and stress management can also be of benefit to the entire workforce.

 

Training for managers

Having been a taboo subject for so long, many managers don’t understand what menopause is, or the severity of its symptoms, and may not connect issues at work with it. Training managers to understand menopause and to be sensitive to the needs of employees experiencing it or their family members can help join the dots. This should be combined with introducing a menopause policy.

 

It’s time to act now

While the Government has rejected calls from the Women and Equalities Committee to make menopause a standalone protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, that doesn’t mean employees who are mistreated by their employer in connection with menopause cannot bring Employment Tribunal claims.

Depending on the circumstances, claims can be made on the basis of age, sex and disability discrimination as well as unfair dismissal. We know that claims are increasing. In 2021, Employment Tribunal claims related to menopause increased by 44%, compared to 2020. So, not only would implementing some of the strategies above be best practice, but it could also provide valuable legal protection, as you can then show you have taken steps to prevent the discrimination happening.

In addition, with an estimated 13 million people in the UK currently experiencing menopausal transition – according to the Office for National Statistics – from a purely numbers-oriented perspective, it’s vital employers consider strategies they can introduce to make their workplaces more menopause-friendly.

So, why not set aside some time to consider steps you can take to raise awareness, provide practical support, and tackle training? Not just to support those going through menopause, but also to create a more supportive and inclusive workplace that everyone can thrive in.


www.lochassociates.co.uk

 

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