The Menopause at Work: Overcoming Misconceptions
How can employers encourage more open conversations about this and provide meaningful support to female employees? Dr Shahzadi Harper of The Harper Clinic (www.theharperclinic.com) shares some of the highlights from her talk at our December Cityworks event.
Many people assume that the menopause mainly affects women in their fifties and are surprised to learn that it’s often earlier, during their forties that many women start to experience symptoms. Often at this age, women are busy juggling the demands of children, caring for elderly relatives and their career and 9 out of 10 women fail to recognise symptoms of perimenopause themselves. Women often consider stepping down from their job, taking a demotion or scaling back at work simply to cope with the menopause. By helping women adjust and plan for this transition, organisations can help to retain women.
What are some of the key symptoms women may suffer?
There’s a common misconception that it’s mainly about hot flushes but there are actually 34 possible symptoms in total including joint ache, insomnia, anxiety, weak bladder control and dry eyes. These can lead to a loss of confidence and self-esteem and a flat mood known as “menopause mood disorder”.
What can employers do to help?
One of the most helpful things employers can do is to have information readily available about the menopause and symptoms so that employees understand more about the topic. The British Menopause Society published 7 videos on World Menopause Day aiming to educate on different aspects of the menopause which can be a useful resource for employers to harness.
Providing training for managers is important so that women feel comfortable in discussing their issues. Another alternative is appointing a Menopause Wellbeing Champion; someone who has a good understanding of the issues and whom women feel comfortable in approaching. In terms of practical support, small things can really make a difference. Providing a quiet space, access to a fan, seating near a window can all help to make women more comfortable in the workplace. Employers can offer lunchtime yoga and mindfulness sessions, making these available to everyone, that can provide another avenue of support for women looking to improve their self-care and find some breathing space during their working day. In addition, promoting weight-bearing exercise such as running, dancing and walking can help women to prevent menopause-related osteoporosis. ACAS offer some good guidance for employers looking to increase their support for women experiencing the menopause.
Creating a formal menopause policy
Some organisations choose to develop menopause guidelines to help signpost employees to the support available however, if possible, creating a formal menopause policy can be more effective and empowering than just guidelines which can be ignored. A menopause policy would typically outline the different support available and sign-post other sources of support. It may also include changes to working patterns such as flexible working e.g. a ‘buffer zone’ of time in the office before meetings start to help women who are sleeping badly or suffering from anxiety. Some companies choose to allow women time off work due to menopause rather than considering this as a sick day.
Employers could also consider providing medical support for employees as part of the policy. Private medical insurance doesn’t normally cover menopause so companies can choose to appoint a doctor who can provide consultations for women with more in-depth knowledge than they may get from their GP. Another option is to offer tailored medical health checks for women aged 40+.
Dr Shahzadi Harper of The Harper Clinic, London, is an experienced GP who specialises in women’s health including the perimenopause, menopause and women’s hormonal wellbeing. She has acted as an Advisor on best practice for women going through the menopause transition in the workplace to companies including Coutts Bank. She has also given Podcasts for women on a range of menopause topics
Released On 11th Dec 2019