The Menopause: Let’s keep the conversation going
by Shoosmiths LLP
Despite the menopause affecting around 13 million women a year in the United Kingdom, until recently it was very much a taboo subject, both within and outside the workplace. Whilst progress has been made, it is critical that the conversation keeps going.
The importance of a supportive workplace
By virtue of celebrities such as Davina McCall openly talking about their experience of the menopause, the celebration of world menopause day and the commissioning of an enquiry by the Women and Equalities committee into the menopause and the workplace, gradually the taboo on talking about the menopause is being lifted. However, progress is still needed, particularly in terms of the support offered to women in the workplace.
Indeed, recent results published by the Fawcett Society, report that 1 in 10 women have left a job because of the menopause and 44% reported that their ability to do their job had been affected by their symptoms. Shockingly, 41% reported that the menopause had been treated as a joke by their colleagues. Further, 8 out of 10 women reported that their employer had not shared information, provided any training or put in place a menopause policy.
It is not only the results of the Fawcett Society’s research that indicates that women experiencing the menopause need more support at work. An analysis of court records by the Menopause Experts Group found a 44% increase in employment tribunal claims citing the menopause since 2020, often in the context of claims for unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and sex discrimination. This demonstrates that where women feel like they are not getting the support or assistance that they need at work during this time in their lives, they are turning to the tribunal for assistance.
Research indicates that women commonly undergo the menopause at a career critical stage. Organisations that fail to provide these women with the support that they need, not only risk failing to develop or losing key talent entirely at a time when recruitment is challenging but could face costly litigation as well.
What support can be offered?
The support offered by an organisation relating to the menopause does not have to be expensive or particularly ground-breaking. For example, Shoosmiths recently shared to all its staff a short question and answer video created by two colleagues about the perimenopause and menopause, which has received overwhelmingly positive feedback.
Other forms of support include: -
- workforce training, both for staff generally so that they understand the symptoms, signs and side-effects of the perimenopause and menopause, as well as for managers on the type of support that can be provided to staff experiencing symptoms;
- having a menopause policy or code of conduct, to provide further information on the support available both within and outside of the workplace;
- embracing the flexible workforce that the Covid 19 pandemic has created to allow those going through the menopause to have the flexibility that they may require when experiencing symptoms; and
- consider other adjustments to the working environment, such as temperature control measures.
In April 2022, over 600 organisations took the ‘Menopause Workplace Pledge’ whereby they agreed to talk openly about the menopause within the workplace and actively support those undergoing the menopause. The main idea behind the pledge is to destigmatise the menopause, to allow those experiencing it to feel comfortable to speak up and to seek support when required but equally to ensure those that are working with individuals experiencing the menopause understand what they may be going through.
Organisations that take active steps to support staff in this way not only help to retain those experiencing the menopause within the workplace, but also ensure that such individuals can continue to thrive and develop at work. Further, it may also implement wider change. The Fawcett Society has suggested that actions to support women with the menopause are key to closing the gender pay gap.
For further information or assistance with providing menopause support within your organisation please contact Lauren Bholé in our National Employment Team at [email protected]. Further, access our webinar on the menopause hosted in conjunction with Macmillan Davies here It’s time to talk about the menopause (shoosmiths.co.uk).