Menopause is a life event that 100% of women will go through. Menopausal symptoms can range from hot flushes, memory problems, brain fog, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression, insomnia to name but a few, so you can imagine how difficult this might make a woman’s working life.
There are around 3.5 million working women in the UK who are over 50 and the average age for menopause in the UK is 51. Research has shown that these women report feeling less engaged at work and are more likely to leave their jobs completely because of their symptoms.
So why is nobody talking about this?!
Many women have no idea what’s happening to them or even worse, they don’t want to admit they’re going through the menopause. I used to hear my Grandma talking about women ‘going through the change ‘or being ‘bad with their nerves’. That was all I knew about the menopause.
Yet this life event can have a real impact on workplace performance leaving women feeling isolated, exhausted and generally hopeless. They are often left feeling like they are underperforming and that they should leave the workplace all together.
Even for women who do know what’s happening to them, the worry that raising the issue with their manager might mean they’re viewed as being less competent drives the issue back underground. Absenteeism isn’t the problem here, it’s presenteeism. We are turning up for work in our droves, needing reasonable support, which sadly for the majority of women, just isn’t there.
Research from the University of Nottingham found that women were reluctant to talk to their manager about the menopause if they were male, younger than them, or both. They also didn’t disclose that menopausal symptoms were the real reason for absence when they needed to take time off. The research also found that depressingly, over half of the women who took part in the research study were unable to negotiate flexible or part-time working with their manager.
What needs to be done?
Menopause needs to be managed properly, and it’s a 3-pronged approach:
1) Proper medical diagnosis, treatment, and lifestyle management
2) Education around the menopause, for women, their partners, and their employers
3) Reasonable adjustments for those who need it.
Medical diagnosis, treatment, and lifestyle management
Getting a diagnosis is helpful. There is no need for women to suffer in silence. It’s about finding out what treatment options are available and the risks and benefits of each. Treatments like HRT can be a godsend for many women. Also changes to lifestyle, exercise and herbal treatments are options.
Sadly many women have no idea what the symptoms of the menopause are so don’t seek help and just think it’s old age! Even more alarmingly, organisations aren’t prepared for how they will support women going through this transition. It’s estimated that only 3% of organisations in the UK are recognising the impact of menopause.
For some women, the effects can last 10 years or more with the average duration being 3-5 years. Ignorance is not a defence, and there have recently been cases brought to tribunal costing companies thousands of pounds. You can read about them here.
Even if you do have policies and procedures, they are only as good as the quality of conversation your leaders have, so it’s vital that managers get the education they need.
It’s also essential that you help to educate your employees, especially working women so they can seek the treatments they need to help manage their symptoms.
If managers are trained to spot the symptoms and understand what women go through during the menopause, they will be better placed to manage employees with understanding and compassion. Without out this organisations are in danger of losing their talent as well as putting themselves at risk. The menopause effects everyone in a unique way so it’s vital women and their employers are prepared.
Menopause is a change of life and will affect every woman, so it makes sense that accommodating employers should make reasonable adjustments in the same way these are made for pregnancy etc. Allowing employees to work flexible hours, looking at uniforms and working conditions such as room temperature all helps. Knowing your employer cares is a great motivator.
Where do I come in?
Miss Menopause was created to educate employers and their people about what to expect and how to navigate through this life event at work. As more women work full time for longer than ever before, it is vital that education is provided. My training events are aimed at educating HR professionals, managers, working men and women about the menopause in a fun, engaging, and informative way.
If you’d like to find out more, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also join my Facebook group or my Facebook and Twitter campaign #wearemenopause