World Menopause Day 2023
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World Menopause Day 2023
Today, 18 October 2023, is World Menopause Day. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of menopause and also to encourage employers to identify what support is available to improve health and wellbeing. This year’s theme is cardiovascular disease (CVD) given that hormonal changes associated with menopause can have a wide-ranging impact on cardiovascular health, such as changes to blood pressure and cholesterol and increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
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. Employees 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 stated by the NHS, that menopause usually takes place between the ages of 45 and 55 when periods have stopped for more than 12 months due to lower hormone levels, it is also important to be mindful that it can also start much earlier and can affect individuals in their 20’s and can still affect individuals into their 60’s who may also experience symptoms. Symptoms during menopause (and leading up to it in perimenopause) 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 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.
Such symptoms, can have a significant impact on someone’s work life. Those impacted by menopause may be concerned that they will be viewed as being ‘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 menopause in the workplace, thereby promoting a positive working environment. Even just talking about or acknowledging menopause can make a huge difference to those who are affected.
How can you support those affected by 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 (EAP).
- Training: Provide training to staff and/or managers about the effects of menopause. Ensure they understand how to talk/listen and provide support (where appropriate) and an empathetic ear. 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 menopause and ensure symptoms are not exacerbated by the workplace or its practices.
- Flexibility & reasonable adjustments: If 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, desk fans, easy access to cool water, cool rooms/private spaces, flexible start/end times, regular breaks, provision of uniforms in more breathable fabrics 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.
- Menopause specific benefits: Review existing EAP benefits and private medical schemes to see if there are any additional clinical benefits/assessments/access to medication that could be provided, as well as any additional apps/helplines and seminars. Also, remind staff and Line Managers about what your current schemes include.
- 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. Employers also have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments where an employee has a disability under the Equality Act 2010. The number of employment tribunal claims concerning menopause are beginning to rise and in the case of Rooney v Leicester City Council, it was initially determined that the effects of menopause could amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and has now gone back to the employment tribunal this month for determination – do watch this space! Also, in another recent case, Lynskey v Direct Line Insurance Services Ltd, the insurance company was ordered to pay £64,645 to Ms Lynskey who had been struggling with ‘menopausal symptoms’ and who had ultimately resigned having been subject to performance and disciplinary proceedings. The tribunal upheld that they failed to make reasonable adjustments for her ‘menopausal symptoms’ which did amount to a disability and they were hugely critical of her line Manager’s ‘wholesale lack of compassion and understanding.’
Most importantly, the message of today is to normalise conversations and to encourage employees to reach out, to raise awareness and to make a commitment to break the stigma today and every day…
Do you need help implementing a menopause policy or require further advice on how to handle menopause in the workplace? Please contact Victoria Regan, Partner in the Employment team, at email@example.com
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