MENOPAUSE IN THE WORKPLACE: A MINDFUL AND SUPPORTIVE APPROACH
Tuesday 18th October is World Menopause Day. This year, television presenter Louise Minchin will be Continuing the Conversation in a partnership between the British Menopause Society and ITN Productions Industry News.
You may ask why Sodexo Engage, an employee engagement expert, is joining this conversation. The answer is simple: menopause affects every employee and employer at some point in their career.
Businesses must create a workplace culture of openness and mental and physical wellbeing. Menopause creates physical and emotional symptoms that present differently and are often suffered in silence.
None of your employees should experience such a significant life change without the support and understanding of their employer. Here at Sodexo Engage, we’re ready to have this conversation and to help you ensure your business is too.
Why we need to continue the conversation
There is estimated to be 3.5 million women between the age of 15 and 65 currently in employment in the UK. Statista shows that in August 2022, 32.8 million people were employed in the UK, meaning those 3.5 million women make up 10% of the UK workforce.
Menopause begins when a woman’s hormone levels drop, usually between the ages of 44 and 55. According to findings recorded by Age UK, between 2004 and 2010, the average retirement age among women was 61.2 years to 62.3 years.
If we apply a generalised rule to this, every woman in employment will go through menopause whilst continuing to work, thus, supporting our point that menopause affects everyone in employment. Even if you aren’t a woman, you will work with or employ women, and every one of them will go through menopause.
There are some circumstances where women will not go through menopause, and it’s essential to be mindful of that. Employers also need to consider their employees’ gender identity. Individuals who identify as male but have female reproductive organs will still go through menopause. Further still, perimenopause, or early menopause, can begin when a woman is in her thirties.
As you can see, there’s much to discuss and learn.
Menopause and Discrimination
It’s beneficial for employers to educate themselves and their managers so that, at a minimum, adequate support is provided. We’d also recommend including the menopause within your organisation’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, enlightening your workforce on what language and actions could be considered offensive or discriminatory.
Whilst menopause isn’t listed in the Equality Act 2010, which tackles discrimination in the workplace, employers need to understand that the Act could still be invoked. For example, if an employee felt that they were treated unfairly because of a menopause symptom, it could be related to a protected characteristic within the Act, such as age.
The Symptoms of Menopause
We’ve established that given the average retirement age, many women will go through menopause whilst in employment. Menopause comes with symptoms that will be experienced whilst still trying to get on with everyday life and perform in the workplace - another reason we need to continue the conversation.
Employers have a responsibility to support their employees’ mental health, so it’s important to understand the impact menopause can have. Symptoms of menopause include anxiety, low concentration and even memory problems, all of which can impact employee engagement, performance, and wellbeing.
Creating a culture of open communication is crucial so that women feel comfortable and confident in discussing their symptoms and requesting support where needed.
Download our Culture of Wellbeing Whitepaper for guidance on creating a culture of support within your business.
Menopause will also impact a woman’s physical health, and symptoms include hot flushes that can lead to dizziness, sleeping difficulties, and worsening headaches and migraines, to name just a few. All of these can lead to increased absences and presenteeism.
We can’t say it enough; communication and conversation are vital. Increased absences are a red flag for a business, leading to the involvement of HR. You must start conversations with an open mind, apply compassion, and be prepared to find ways to offer support.
Don’t neglect older employees of any gender. Not only do they have a wealth of knowledge, experience, and resilience, ONS research suggests that by 2039, the economy will become increasingly reliant on them.
How can businesses support employees through menopause?
We’ve already touched on the importance of a culture of communication, support, and education. Still, there are other ways businesses can support their valued employees through menopause that will benefit your entire workforce and business too.
It’s worth pointing out that flexible working is in high demand from job seekers and those in employment, and a lack of flexibility is often a factor in the decision to leave a role. However, for the employee struggling with some of the mental and physical symptoms of menopause, it’s a game changer.
- Anxiety presents in different ways but can lead to panic attacks. Having the option to work from home and avoid external triggers will support your employees’ mental wellbeing.
- Lack of sleep can lead to exhaustion, so a flexible start time or the option of compressing hours is helpful.
Don’t forget that exhaustion and stress can lead to burnout; employees need to be protected from this.
How Sodexo Engage can help you make that crucial difference
We hope this article will empower you to create the culture your workplace needs and gives you food for thought regarding flexible working practices. However, if you’re looking for ways to incorporate mental and physical wellbeing initiatives into your business that will benefit all employees, then we’re not quite done.
Health screening is the ideal way for employees to evaluate their physical wellbeing, giving them the chance to make positive changes. You can support those changes with our corporate Gym Memberships, giving your employees savings of up to 25%.
Whether it’s a boost of endorphins or a relaxing trip to the sauna that’s needed, it’s one of our most appreciated wellbeing schemes.
Are you ready to continue the conversation? Contact our expert team today.