Time to tackle the menopause taboo

Rachel Suff, Senior Employment relations Adviser at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, on the CIPD’s new campaign to raise awareness of what employers can do to address issues relating to the menopause.

Menopause, Working Mum, Tired Mum

 

The menopause is a natural stage of life experienced by most women and yet it remains a taboo topic in many workplaces. The reluctance felt by many women to discuss menopausal symptoms is understandable, but the menopause transition need not be an awkward topic.

We need to normalise the conversation about the menopause in the same way many workplaces have begun to break down the barriers and foster inclusion around mental health issues. At the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD – the professional body for HR and people development), we’re aiming to break down the silence and provide the practical advice needed to create menopause-friendly workplaces. That is why we’ve published a variety of menopause resources, including guidance for people professionals and an accompanying guide for people managers.

There is a compelling rationale for employers to take this issue seriously, starting with the number of women whose working lives could be affected by a more positive approach to the menopause. The average age of the menopause is 51. For years there has been a steady increase in the employment rate of women over 50 in the UK, and this trend is likely to continue given the ageing population. There are now around 4.4 million women aged 50 to 64 in work; therefore, the potential to support the continued employment of women in the menopausal age bracket is considerable.

Get serious about the menopause

Employers who are serious about attracting and retaining valuable female talent need to get serious about the menopause.

Essentially, employers should support people with menopausal symptoms in the same way they would with any other health condition. Often, a few simple changes to someone’s working environment can make a world of difference, enabling someone experiencing menopausal symptoms to continue performing and achieving their full potential. Our guidance covers the key areas where employers need to take action to develop an effective framework.

These include:

  • creating a supportive and inclusive culture around the menopause, for example by promoting awareness of the symptoms associated with menopause transition, encouraging open conversations and communicating the considerable organisational benefits of embracing an older female workforce
  • treating an employee with menopause symptoms in the same way they would manage and support someone with any long-term health condition, including making reasonable adjustments where needed
  • operating a flexible absence management policy and making sure women are not unfairly penalised for taking sick leave due to having serious menopausal symptoms
  • ensuring line managers are trained on how the menopause can affect work, how to have sensitive conversations and what adjustments may be necessary to support people
  • promoting the importance of flexible working, as the ability to negotiate flexible working hours or practices could make a real difference to someone experiencing menopausal symptoms
  • ensuring that performance management is a positive process and focuses on the support needed to help everyone perform to the best of their ability, including taking on board any underlying health issues.

Open discussion

Organisations have a responsibility to create a stigma-free environment that encourages open discussion and disclosure around the menopause; this will encourage women to not suffer in silence and discuss the practical steps needed to support their full engagement and productivity at work. By taking the menopause seriously and treating it as an occupational health and people management issue, organisations can help to mitigate the potential negative impact of symptoms on the individual and the organisation, such as reduced job satisfaction and higher sickness absence.

Very small changes on a practical level can make a huge difference to the quality of working life for woman experiencing the menopause, and employers can reap the benefits in terms of better attendance, loyalty and engagement levels, as well as lower employee turnover.



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