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While there’s still no specific menopause policy in place here in the UK, menopause discrimination does fall under the Equality Act 2010. This prohibits businesses from putting women at a disadvantage or treating them less favourably under the age, sex, and disability clauses. And with menopausal women being the fastest growing demographic in the UK workforce today, the Equality Act is certainly a good start.

But it’s not enough.

The Impact of Menopause

In 2019, BUPA and the CIPD issued a report which showed that 60% of menopausal women felt that their symptoms had a negative impact on them at work. According to a report by Unison, 8 in 10 women experience noticeable symptoms of menopause.

Sadly, these symptoms – which may include anxiety, discomfort, pain, and fatigue – can cause women to lose confidence in their ability, feel like they have to work to hide their symptoms around others, and perhaps even make the decision to leave their position.

Research suggests that around 900,000 women in the UK have quit their jobs because of menopausal symptoms. And this is a massive problem. Especially at a time when the world has really been making huge strides towards narrowing the gender gap. Over in the United States, for example, the percentage of female Senior Vice Presidents increased by 5% and the percentage of females in c-suite positions rose by 4% in just five years between 2015-2020, which is impressive progress in such a short period.

Losing women from the workplace – particularly women in the 45-55 age category who are perhaps reaching a level of experience and confidence that would see them elevated into these more senior positions – is almost like falling at the final hurdle.

It is clear that not discriminating against women in this stage of their life is a rather passive approach. It’s not enough for businesses to just prevent prejudice; they should be actively working to improve awareness and build inclusive environments for women.

Inclusivity for Women in the Workplace

Building safe, inclusive workplaces for women, trans people, and non-binary workers who experience menopausal symptoms is key to building upon the gender equality progress that’s already being made around the world. Here are some changes that businesses can easily implement to help build these inclusive working environments:

  • Employee Training

Training employees can help to educate workers and make them more aware of how menopause can affect women. Training can show how employees can talk and listen about sensitive and traditionally taboo topics, and demonstrate ways in which both managers and co-workers can offer appropriate support should it be required.

  • Health & Safety Assessments

Conducting a health & safety assessment can help to identify any workplace elements that could exacerbate menopause symptoms, and outline changes that could be made to help eliminate these issues. For example, high temperatures in the workplace may worsen hot flashes, so improved temperature control in the workplace may help.

  • Workplace Policies

Businesses may wish to consider developing new workplace policies that make it clear that women may request changes to their role or working environment should they be struggling to manage their symptoms. For example, businesses may be able to offer women more flexible working patterns or different uniforms if they are irritating the skin.

  • Culture Building

One of the most effective changes that businesses can make is to create an inclusive, open, and welcoming culture for women that actively promotes inclusivity. By building inclusivity into core operations, processes, and ways of working, businesses can ensure that they have strong foundations in place that help women progress, not hold them back.

Benefits of Inclusivity

While changes such as those outlined above can bring numerous benefits to women in the workplace, they can also bring benefits to businesses implementing them, too.

By creating environments that support women in all stages of their life, businesses can reduce staff turnover to minimise the cost of recruitment. They can also boost workplace productivity by lowering menopause-related absences, and maintain their reputation by preventing issues relating to employee relations or workplace tribunals.

Making Changes

The most important thing for businesses to remember is that no one expects them to be experts in the menopause. An improved understanding of the issues that women may experience, knowledge of how it can impact them in the workplace, and ideas for promoting inclusivity and offering support can go a long way towards building better, safer, healthier, and happier environments for anyone going through the menopause.

 

join us for our menopause seminar in January where we look into menopause in more detail, giving further advice support and guidance including more in-depth case studies and training suggestions. to sign up for the event, go to our events page.

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