Better understanding the menopause can help you retain skilled staff

Briony Goldsmith is Health, Safety and Wellbeing Officer at the University of Plymouth and a champion for its inspirational work in introducing its highly successful Menopause Policy. Here, she shares the story of how the University is helping to lead the way in supporting staff experiencing the menopause.

The University of Plymouth is one of the first universities in the UK to implement a Menopause Policy. Launched in 2018, this was developed with broad consultation spanning many different areas and levels of the University, as well as employee Trade Unions, clinicians, the Women’s Network, Henpicked, other universities and an employee forum.

Women of menopausal age are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace and are employed across the University of Plymouth. Providing support around menopause is imperative if the organisation wants to retain these skilled employees.

Good management is crucial to the wellbeing and performance of an organisation, and so developing managers to understand menopause empowers them to get the very best out of their employees.

One of the University’s strategic priorities is to attract, develop and retain excellent staff.  Research shows that many women experiencing menopause leave their workplace because they find that having to manage challenging symptoms around work expectations is just too difficult.

Others find that managing symptoms mean they perhaps miss out on promotions and training, reduce their hours or lose confidence in the workplace.

Creating an environment where employees feel comfortable to ask for support during menopause will ultimately support organisations such as the University in retaining those employees.

A key output of the University’s Menopause policy saw Menopause Guidance developed to provide both employees and managers with the support and help to manage menopausal symptoms and challenges in the workplace.

Following the successful implementation of the policy, the employee forum continued to meet at a Menopause Support Group.  In 2019, the Menopause Support Group became an official Staff Network.

The University now has a dedicated and fully-funded Menopause Support Network which is able to invite specialists to deliver network events to talk about subjects such as nutrition, homeopathy, HRT and hypnotherapy.

There is a clear need for these events and they are becoming so popular that they are regularly over-subscribed.

The University has also invested in delivering a yearly menopause information session free to attend for employees across the organisation to educate on what menopause is; its symptoms; ways of managing symptoms; thinking about long-term health; and where to get help.

This is in addition to a separate session specifically tailored for managers focussing on giving confidence to talk  about menopause; supporting a team member or colleague experiencing menopause; best practice; case law and reasonable adjustment; and general ‘do’s and don’ts’.

Feedback from these sessions such as ‘life-changing’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘informative’ suggests they are fulfilling a real need and are highly valued by the University of Plymouth’s staff. Based upon the success and impact of the first 18 months of this initiative, the University hopes to continue funding this into the future.

Feedback from the Menopause Support Network has been incredibly positive and the number attending the session each month has been growing.

There has been a rise in the number of employees stating menopause as the reason for absence which may indicate employees are feeling more confident about giving the genuine reason for their absence. More managers are referring employees to Occupational Health asking for medical advice on how best to support their employee during menopause.

All of these examples underlines that the initiative is encouraging an open conversation about menopause in the workplace and the subject is becoming far better understood.

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