It’s World Menopause Day on 18 October, a time for organisations across the globe to come together and raise awareness of menopause and how to support people in our workplaces and beyond.
This year it will be the biggest and most exciting yet.
Why do organisations need to support menopause?
There are a whole raft of reasons. We’re living for longer, we’re working for longer and, as menopause is typically between 45-55, more of us than ever before are working through our menopause transition.
Look at your own organisation’s demographic to see just how many could be affected right now – either first-hand or through their relationships with partners, family members, friends or colleagues. This really is an inclusive topic, something everyone needs to know about and is a fundamental part of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion or Well-being policies.
We’re an ageing population in the UK which means the talent pool is shrinking, yet we also know that one in four considers leaving work during menopause. That’s a big expense for any organisation so retention is a key driver, along with improvements in performance and reduction in absence.
In short, menopause can affect us all in some way, and as a responsible employer, introducing support is just the right thing to do.
Menopause, cognition and mood
While many of us think of menopause in terms of physical symptoms like hot flushes, there’s much more to it than that. It’s a very individual experience and some people will sail through it without noticing any symptoms. But three in four people will experience symptoms, which will be severe for one in four.
This year’s theme for World Menopause Day is Cognition and Mood. Perhaps some of the less-well symptoms of menopause are the psychological impacts, but for many, these can be the ones that really affect them at work.
Research conducted earlier this year by the Fawcett Society for Channel 4 reported that over 70% of women aged 45-55 surveyed experienced brain fog in some stage of the menopause transition. Other surveys show that around 40-50% of women experience memory and concentration issues related to menopause.
“Menopause can have a significant impact on cognitive function for many women, which can, in turn, affect their confidence and self-belief,” explains menopause specialist Dr Clare Spencer of My Menopause Centre. “The main cognitive symptoms are brain fog, lack of concentration, memory changes, and difficulty finding words. And they are more common than you might think."
“Mood changes, such as depression and anxiety are extremely common in the menopause transition. Surveys suggest over 50% of women suffer with low mood or depression at some time in the menopause transition."
It’s time we all started to recognise the often-debilitating impact these psychological symptoms can have.
What can you do in your organisation?
If you’ve never considered supporting menopause at work, now really is the time to start. Being an accredited Menopause Friendly employer is the kitemark of excellence and brings huge benefits, not just to employees but to the organisation, too.
The type of support you offer very much depends on your organisation, its size, its structure, and the nature of what you do. The key is to get everyone talking about menopause.
Consider whether you want a formal menopause policy or general guidance document and what to include in this. For example, what would be the best process for anyone needing support? Do you have internal support you could signpost them to, like an Employee Assistance Programme? How could you incorporate appropriate changes into your colleagues’ working lives?
Once you’ve set out your document, the next thing is to make sure everyone knows it’s there and how to access it. This is absolutely, categorically not a box-ticking exercise! A metaphorically dusty document stuck unannounced in the corner of an intranet won’t cut it. You need to make sure everyone knows what support is available and how they can quickly and easily access it.
Again, training is essential. Getting line managers and everyone up to speed with the facts about menopause, how to talk about it and what support helps. Ultimately, the more the word ‘menopause’ is used in your workplace, the better it is for everyone.
The commercial side...
Of course, offering this support at work is the right and responsible thing to do. But it can also reap rewards. High up on many employers’ lists is attracting and retaining top talent.
There is also key legislation which employers much comply with in terms of menopause. The Equality Act 2010 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 protect employees against discrimination and support their health and safety at work. We’ve actually started to see an increasing number of menopause tribunals, too. Let’s face it, nobody wants things to get that far, and putting some support in place can protect you against legal repercussions, costs and reputational risks.
Most menopause support is very easy to put in place, low cost and long-term. Support often includes simple things like offering a desk fan or extra uniform, making sure you have good washroom facilities and making sure meetings are minuted or notes are available.