Rachel Suff, Senior Policy Adviser Employment Relations at CIPD explains why it is necessary to speak about menopause at work and create an open culture to help remove the taboo.
Half the workforce is female, which means half the workforce will go through the menopause at some stage – but there is still a big taboo in most workplaces on the issue, meaning many women suffer in silence. Why is the menopause a workplace issue and what needs to change?
There is a compelling rationale for employers to take this issue seriously, starting with the number of women whose working lives could be affected by a more positive approach to the menopause. Women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing group in the workforce and the average age for the menopause transition is 51. As more women go through the menopause during their working lives, it’s vital that employers ensure they get the right support. The menopause is a natural stage of life experienced by most women, but the ‘M’ word is barely spoken in most workplaces.
The reluctance felt by many women to discuss menopausal symptoms is understandable, but the menopause transition need not be an awkward topic. We need to normalise the conversation about the menopause in the same way many workplaces have begun to break down the barriers and foster inclusion around mental health issues.
New CIPD research shows that three out of five (59%) working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work. The main impacts include higher stress, loss of concentration and less patience with colleagues and customers. Nearly a third of women surveyed (30%) said they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms, but only a quarter of them felt able to tell their manager the real reason for their absence.
The need for more openness is further highlighted by the fact that more women say they feel supported by their colleagues (48%) when going through the menopause than by their managers (32%).
It’s important that there is an open culture when it comes to discussing the menopause. As a first step to achieving cultural change, employers should promote awareness of the symptoms associated with menopause transition across their workforce and encourage open conversations about this natural life stage.
Employers should ensure that all managers are trained and have a broad understanding of how menopausal symptoms can affect employees at work. They also need to be knowledgeable about what adjustments may be helpful to support women who are experiencing particular symptoms. Essentially, employers should support people with menopausal symptoms in the same way they would with any other health condition.
Effective adjustments can be simple, low cost and make a big difference to how well someone with symptoms can carry on performing to the best of their ability. There is no reason why any woman should need to press pause on their working life because they are going through the menopause.
There are now around 4.4 million women age 50-64 in work. There is considerable potential to support the continued employment of women in the perimenopausal and menopausal age bracket for the benefit of themselves and organisations as well as the wider economy. At the same time, the quality of working life for women experiencing the menopause could be improved for millions now and in the future.
To hear more about how managers, employers and HR teams can improve working conditions, visit the CIPD on stand D80 at Festival of Work at 11:00 on both days. See the CIPD stand timetable.
The CIPD’s Festival of Work (12-13 June 2019, Olympia London, www.festivalofwork.com) promises to be a landmark event for both people professionals and business leaders. By focusing on the most innovative strategies in management, technology and learning, the festival will help you, and 7,000 of your colleagues, to harness the latest transformations and drive a human future of work. With 7,000+ attendees, 160+ inspiring speakers, filled with inspirational live experiences and challenging ideas, it’s the ultimate celebration of people in the workplace.
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