According to the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, many women (nearly one million) have left the workplace because of menopause symptoms.
Menopause commonly affects the health of those in their 40s and early 50s, meaning that employees are being lost to the workforce at the time when their experience is most valuable to their employer - when they should be taking up management and leadership positions.
Historically, the workplace hasn’t done a good job supporting the health of women experiencing menopause. A recent government inquiry found that many women were unlikely to talk about how their symptoms affected them at work or request support, because of concerns over privacy and the stigma around the subject.
Inquiry respondents called for employers to make adjustments in their treatment of employees and to provide more flexibility. They said education on the subject was needed to raise awareness and increase openness, to remove the stigma and provide better menopause support.
Do I need a workplace menopause policy?
There’s (currently) no legal requirement for employers to have a menopause policy or to provide menopause support as part of their HR processes. But employers are losing people in their 40s and 50s for lack of clarity and support, right at the time when their knowledge and experience makes them most valuable. This is not a ‘women's health’ issue, though it has often been labelled that way in the past. This is a talent issue.
In fact, it’s more than that. Menopause is a massive wellbeing issue that’s been largely ignored in the workplace. Symptoms include – but are in no way limited to - hormone imbalance, anxiety, hot flashes, troubled sleep, issues with memory and concentration, osteoporosis, and depression. Over a third of respondents told the government inquiry that they’d taken time off work for treatment as a result.
Must you have a workplace menopause policy? No. Should you? Yes. Although many of the symptoms of menopause will be covered by health and safety, flexible working, performance, and sickness & absence policies, it is now best practice for human resource departments to have a standalone menopause policy.
Is menopause covered under existing legislation?
For employers, the cost of ignoring the issue can be damaging to the workforce, as employees suffering from menopause symptoms can seek legislative protection in a number of ways.
Under the Employment Rights Act, employees with more than two years’ service can claim unfair dismissal where they feel their employer has acted unfairly. Also, the Health & Safety at Work Act makes employers responsible for safe working, which extends to conditions for employees experiencing menopausal symptoms.
However, most cases involving menopause are brought under The Equality Act 2010, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of (among other protected characteristics) age, sex and disability – all of which apply to menopause. Litigation under this legislation carries no cap on damages, and complainants may also issue proceedings against individuals, who may then be personally liable.
What is a workplace menopause policy for?
The aim of this policy is to provide clarity for employees and managers on the responsibilities and rights around this issue. It should clearly articulate what is expected of all parties in the workplace and what support and adjustment they can expect. It should direct employees to sources of information, treatment, and support.
How do I write a workplace menopause policy?
There’s no set format for your workplace menopause policy, but here are some sections that could be included.
Your statement of intent makes it clear that you, the employer, are committed to the health, safety, and wellbeing of all employees - specifically, in this case, those experiencing menopausal symptoms. You acknowledge that menopause is an occupational and wellbeing issue and clarify that this policy includes all gender identities.
Articulate the aims of the policy. This is to help and support employees affected by menopause symptoms, to raise awareness of the issue among all employees and managers, to address the stigma surrounding the subject and so improve sensitivity and understanding. You want employees to feel confident talking to their manager or a human resources representative, to be able to raise issues or ask for additional flexibility.
Define and explain what menopause is and describe the menopausal symptoms, ensuring you’re careful to state that sufferers’ experiences can vary wildly.
Outline the legal provisions around menopause, the specific pieces of legislation and how they protect employee rights. Clarify key terms and provide relevant examples of behaviours and scenarios that would fall foul of discrimination, health and safety or unfair dismissal rules.
What is everyone’s role? For the individual experiencing symptoms, such as hot flushes, they should be encouraged to care for their own wellbeing. To be open about the issues affecting their work and to ask a relevant person for support. Management must be open to these conversations, sensitive, understanding, and willing to make the necessary adjustments and provide flexible working options. The responsibility to create an environment where this can occur- a culture of understanding and support - belongs to everyone.
What have you put in place for menopause sufferers? What are their options? What adjustments can be made to support them? Who can they speak to? No matter how good your culture, this is a sensitive issue so ideally you should provide a choice of individuals.
It’s also worth listing self-help options, like links to dietary and lifestyle advice. And third-party organisations who can offer support and advice for individuals who feel unable to raise the subject with their employer.
Communication is key in beating the stigma that makes this issue so difficult for so many. The societal lack of discussion around menopause and its symptoms means some women may not even be aware of the cause of their issues and will struggle on alone instead of asking for the help they need. For managers, colleagues, and HR departments, understanding is a critical component in a culture that nurtures the confidence required to ask for support.
So, create your policy, research and write your advice, and put it out there. Start talking about menopause health issues in your business. Leadership should acknowledge and engage in the conversation, helping to legitimise it as a real and important issue.
Put together HR processes that can help those suffering with menopause symptoms. Human Resources can take the initiative by setting up internal communication networks for sufferers, or by creating recognised ‘menopause champions’ within the business – because people who won’t speak to their manager may well confide in a trained representative with an official menopause responsibility.
XCD HR software incorporates a secure document hosting functionality, where employees can search and access key workplace policies and guidance documentation at any time, from anywhere.
If you’d like to see it in action, connect to an expert using the chat function, book a demo now