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Victoria Regan

Partner - East Sussex (Uckfield)

18th October 2022

World Menopause Day – 18th October 2022

Today is World Menopause Day and The International Menopause Society are encouraging all employers to raise awareness in the workplace and to identify what support is available to improve health and wellbeing. This year’s theme is ‘cognition and mood’, with particular focus on ‘brain fog’ and memory loss.

The menopause is often unrecognised and perceived as a ‘woman’s’ problem. It is important to note that it is not just a gender or age issue – but an organisational issue that can affect many individuals in the workplace in different ways. Members of the trans and non-binary community may also experience menopausal symptoms if they are taking hormonal treatments. Employers should therefore adopt an inclusive approach for the support offered.

Whilst it is generally understood, that menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average menopause lasting for four years, it is also important to be mindful that it can also start much earlier and can affect individuals in their 20’s. Symptoms can include sleeplessness, memory loss or poor concentration or ‘brain fog’, headaches, hot flushes, depression and anxiety and/or muscle and joint pains. All stages and types of the menopause are different and symptoms vary from person to person, ranging from very mild to severe and can pose a big mental challenge for individuals as they come to terms with their fertility coming to an end at whatever age. This could be particularly distressing for younger employees, who may have intended to start a family later in life.

Those impacted by the menopause generally feel that they will be viewed as less capable of doing their job, particularly if they ask for help. Many therefore, do not speak to their employer or work colleagues about what they are going through or what might help them. Some employees might also take time ‘off-sick’ as a result of their symptoms and often are reluctant to explain the real reason for their absence. Employers can help to change this view by implementing support options promoting inclusivity, as well as normalising the conversation around the menopause in the workplace, thereby promoting a positive working environment. Even just talking about or acknowledging it can make a huge difference to those who are affected.

How can you support those affected by the menopause? Here are some top tips on support options available:

  • POLICY: Put in place a Menopause Policy which raises awareness, encourages open conversations in the workplace and sets out support/adjustments available to staff and identifies where further assistance can be obtained such as external support groups or employee assistance programmes.
  • TRAINING: Provide training to staff and/or managers about the effects of the menopause. Ensure they understand how to talk/listen and provide support (where appropriate). This could also include having menopause or wellbeing champions in the workplace.
  • RISK ASSESSMENTS: Employers have a duty of care and are responsible for the health and safety of all staff. Undertaking risk assessments will help to identify any potential risks associated with the menopause and ensure symptoms are not exacerbated by the workplace or its practices.
  • FLEXIBILITYIf an employee’s performance declines and you are aware that this may be due to them experiencing menopausal symptoms, be understanding and check if there are any reasonable adjustments that could be made to help them undertake their duties and enable them to perform to their full potential. Reasonable adjustments may include moving a person’s desk away from a heat source, easy access to cool water, flexible start/end times, regular breaks and reviewing any absence trigger systems in place.
  • POSTERS & SIGNPOSTING: Employers could display posters and leaflets in the workplace, not only to signpost where support can be received but also in order to encourage and normalise conversations on this topic to stamp out stigma.
  • STOP BANTER: What might appear to be merely a ‘joke’ to one person might in fact be incredibly upsetting and distressing to other work colleagues and potentially be deemed as bullying or harassment.

Employees going through the menopause should not be subjected to any detriment or harassment, nor should they be treated less favourably, as doing so could result in potential claims against employers. The number of employment tribunal claims concerning menopause is increasing and in the latest case of Rooney v Leicester City Council it was determined that the effects of menopause could amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

We are here to help

Rix & Kay’s Employment team work closely with you to establish your business objectives and the best way of achieving them. Do you need help implementing a menopause policy or require further advice on how to handle menopause in the workplace? Please contact Victoria Regan e, victoriaregan@rixandkay.co.uk t, 01825 761555.