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Employers urged to make workplaces 'menopause friendly'

A group of business women working together on a tablet

Most women will go through the menopause during their working lives. But a lack of support for menopausal symptoms is pushing 'highly skilled and experienced' women out of work, according to a new report from the House of Commons' cross-party Women and Equalities Committee.

The report calls on the UK government to amend the Equality Act to introduce menopause as a protected characteristic and to require employers to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees.

Skills and experience

The average age of menopause is 51, with perimenopause often starting years earlier. Women experiencing menopause are often at the peak of their skills and experience and it doesn't make sense for employers to miss out on this valuable talent, says the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development.

It's also worth remembering that employers have a duty of care for employees' health, safety and wellbeing and not to discriminate on the grounds of sex, age or disability.

For every ten women experiencing menopausal symptoms, six say it has a negative impact on their work.

Tailored support

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to menopause due to the unique way in which an individual can experience the range of potential symptoms. Support and adjustments should be designed to suit an individual's needs, for example through tailored absence policies, specialist support from an employee assistance programme and/or occupational health, flexible working arrangements, bespoke workplace adjustments and informal support networks such as menopause cafes or employee resource groups.

Developing and communicating a strategy based on employee needs and preference helps to empower the woman experiencing the menopause transition to manage her symptoms with the right organisational support in place at the right time, the CIPD explained.

Scale of the problem

With 4.5 million women aged 50-64 currently in employment, the report emphasises the scale of the problem facing 'individuals, the economy and society'.

Women experiencing at least one problematic menopausal symptom are 43% more likely to have left their jobs by the age of 55 than those experiencing no severe symptoms, while research by BUPA shows that 900,000 women experiencing the menopause have left work.

"Menopause is inevitable. The steady haemorrhage of talented women from our workforce, however, is not," said Caroline Nokes MP, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee.

"Stigma, shame and dismissive cultures can, and must, be dismantled. It is imperative that we build workplaces -- and a society -- which not only supports those going through the menopause, but encourages some of the most experienced and skilled workers in our economy to thrive."

To help reduce the flow of women forced out of work, the report calls for the appointment of a new Menopause Ambassador who would produce model menopause policies and disseminate good practice, in collaboration with employers, unions and other stakeholders.

Resources for employers

The CIPD offers a range of practical resources to help employers create a menopause-friendly workplace, including a guide for HR and a shorter practical guide for line managers, as well as top tips, posters and leaflets.

"The menopause affects millions of women each year and it's vital that employers take action to ensure that those experiencing menopause are properly supported in the workplace and retained," said Claire McCartney, senior inclusion advisor for the CIPD.

Posted by Fidelius on August 8th 2022

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