With women making up 47% of the UK workforce, and with retirement ages rising, female staff are working longer than they have ever done before. Hundreds of thousands of these women are affected by the symptoms of menopause each year, yet the topic, and the impact it has, is rarely discussed.
Symptoms of menopause include hot flushes, sleep disturbance, mood swings as well as poor memory and concentration. Menopausal symptoms last typically around four years, but have been known to last as long as ten years and can vary greatly between individuals.
It is not an illness, it is a fact of life for all women. The average age of onset is 51, and with 3.5million female employees aged 50+ in the UK, a significant number of the workforce are affected and struggling at work alone and in silence.
Marks and Spencer (M&S) is one of the few companies which has already highlighted the need to have specific policies in place for menopausal staff members.
It has created a wellbeing portal and created a dedicated Occupational Health team to ensure the appropriate adjustments can be made. But in a great many other organisations, and especially in male-dominated workforces, women don’t feel they can ask for, or will receive, the support they need.
In its recent research, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that 30% of women had been absent from work due to their symptoms and, of those, 75% felt unable to disclose this as the true reason to their manager.
Worryingly, it is estimated that around 10% of women actually leave their jobs as a direct result of their menopausal symptoms. It really is crucial for employers to be flexible and to support menopausal women, as they already do for pregnant women, to ensure they feel comfortable at work and confident in their role.
The CIPD has published a guide to help employers and HR departments to support their employees as they manage their symptoms. The guide encourages employers to have regular informal conversations with their staff about their health, as well as suggestions for flexible working arrangements and adapting the office environment, for example, providing fans, desks by opening windows and lowering the office temperature. It also suggests reviewing staff uniforms to favour those made from more natural materials and ensuring good access to bathrooms and cold water.
By making some simple changes to someone’s role or working conditions, employers can not only help to alleviate some symptoms, resulting in happier, comfortable, more valued employees, but also reduce absence and increase productivity within their organisation; a win-win for both parties.
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