Building menopause-friendly workplaces
The menopause affects half of all workers. And yet the majority of current employer’s menopause policies are non-existent or sorely lacking.
In this guest blog, Claire McCartney and Rachel Suff – Policy Advisers at CIPD – outline the policies we need to make life better for working women experiencing the menopause transition.
In 2019, the CIPD worked with a wide range of experts and practitioners to publish a suite of free downloadable resources to help organisations create menopause-friendly workplaces. Since then, we – and others working in this space – have noticed a distinct shift in the level of interest about the menopause on the part of employers, as well as in society more generally. But there is more work and awareness raising that needs to be done to build on this momentum.
Menopause symptoms are continuing to affect women, sometimes debilitating them. However, in 2019, when we polled HR professionals, just 1 in 10 told us that their organisation had in place any kind of policy, guidance or framework relating to the menopause.
How do you create a menopause-friendly workplace?
Simply put, employers need to support people with menopausal symptoms in the same way they would support someone with any other health condition. Information and education about the menopause should be included as part of the organisation’s inclusion and diversity training for the whole workforce, and health and wellbeing policies should signpost to the support available. Some employers use health and wellbeing days to promote advice on the menopause for example, which is something that we have done at the CIPD to help open the conversation around menopause support.
Start the conversation – and keep it going!
CIPD research also showed that only a quarter of women who had been unable to go into work due to menopausal symptoms had felt able to tell their line manager the real reason for their absence. This underlines the stigma that still exists. We hope that the increased openness about the menopause is starting to boost the confidence of women with symptoms to raise the issue and access the support they need. So many women have told us through the course of our research that a few small practical adjustments at work have made the world of difference to their working life.
Managers have a key role to play in encouraging a working environment whereby people feel able to discuss their health concerns. A line manager will typically be the first port of call if someone needs a change to their work or working hours because they are experiencing menopausal symptoms.
In 2019, when we polled HR professionals, just 1 in 10 told us that their organisation had in place any kind of policy, guidance or framework relating to the menopause.
Therefore, it’s crucial that all managers are trained and have a broad understanding of how menopausal symptoms can affect employees’ interaction with work. They also need to be knowledgeable about what adjustments may be helpful to support women who are experiencing particular symptoms.
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. The more we talk about the menopause, the more women with symptoms will feel able to seek the support they need to thrive at work.
Below we outline some of the recommendations that we think are most helpful in supporting women experiencing the menopause transition and bringing about positive change:
The government needs to tackle the stigma surrounding the menopause at work and raise awareness across business, linking effective support on the menopause to attracting and retaining valuable female talent, often at the peak of their careers, knowledge and skills. See our Menopause Manifesto which we launched in Westminster.
People Professionals should take a proactive approach to the menopause at work through a dedicated policy or plan and create an inclusive and supportive culture.
Line managers should brush up on the facts about the menopause and what they can do to support members of their team.
Download the free CIPD printable resources to help your organisation create a menopause-friendly workplace: there are guides for HR professionals and line managers, practical tips to make reasonable adjustments, as well as posters and leaflets. Join us in helping to build on the momentum that has been created so far, and keep the conversation going about the menopause.