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No need for women to press pause on their career during menopause

Helena White is Head of HR Services at Delt Shared Services. With more than 27 years’ HR experience, she provides professional and pragmatic HR support and advice to Delt and its clients. Here, Helena focuses on why there is a spotlight on the menopause right now and what employers should be doing about it.

The fastest-growing segment of the workforce in the UK is women over the age of 50. 

Most will go through the menopause transition during their working lives, while six out of 10 women experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on their work.

With the right support, there’s no need for women to press pause on their career during this natural transition. But many women suffer in silence unless their employers break the taboo and start talking openly about the menopause at work.

It is a key retention and recruitment issue

Women over 45 are a significant and growing part of the labour market. Often women are at the peak of their skills, experience and careers when they experience menopause. With all the recruitment and retention challenges at present, you don’t want to lose employees and you want to do as much as possible to attract candidates.

Duty of care

As an employer, you have a duty of care and responsibility for employee health and wellbeing under the Equality Act 2010 not to discriminate on grounds of age, sex or disability.

The menopause is not a specific protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. But if an employee or worker is put at a disadvantage and treated less favourably because of their menopause symptoms, this could be discrimination if related to a protected characteristic such as age, disability, gender reassignment or sex.

Employment tribunal cases alleging menopause-related discrimination are on the rise. Women now feel more empowered by society to raise concerns with their employers. Companies who do not focus on menopause related matters will potentially experience problems.

What can employers do?

Like many personal situations there isn’t a one size fits all approach and often providing an opportunity to discuss employee needs will allow for a more comfortable working arrangement. At a basic level employers can consider practical changes which make a huge difference. This may be flexible working hours, more comfortable uniforms or individual desk fans.

Sharing of information throughout the year can help inform other members of the team about the impact that the menopause may have on an individual. Start by drip feeding information across your intranet, internal newsletters or blogs.

Check that your health and safety risk assessments cover the different stages of the menopause, set up a support network and seek employee feedback.

If someone believes a longer-term change to their job would help them with their menopause symptoms they could make a flexible working request.

Check that your EAP provider is knowledgeable and has the resources to support your employees (and their partners).

Educate and train your managers – the more educated and aware they are, the less embarrassed they will be. You can encourage your managers to talk about the menopause with all staff alongside other equality and diversity and health and wellbeing topics to normalise the topic.

The bottom line is, if employees can’t talk about the menopause and line managers aren’t provided with education and support to have conversations, then issues won’t get raised and you will lose productivity, lose productive employees and put the company at risk.

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