By Naomi Thompson, head of organisational development, at Benenden Health
In today’s turbulent jobs market, retaining and developing skilledemployeeshas never been more important. Recently, UK vacancies hit their highest level since records beganamid post-Brexit and Covid employee shortages, which are affecting the whole economy.Also, employee attitudes are changing with their wellbeing being more front of mind, so demands for flexibility and support from their employer is increasing.
For many employers, this means that losingtop talent because they don’t feel supported or valued could have a catastrophic impact on their business.
This makes it difficult to understand – not to mention grossly unfair – that millions of womenare at risk of disciplinary action and failed promotions due to a lack of understanding and care around the menopause from their employer.
Menopause often overlooked by employers
According to our latest research, the 2021 National Health and Wellbeing Report, the menopause is a health issue that is often overlooked at work. Only a fifth of employees (19%) know if their workplace has a menopause policy and available support should they experience related ill health.
Although 95% of businesses believe that menopausal symptoms and complications have negatively affected employee work, our findings reveal that many employers are not providing appropriate support or communicating their provision of assistance effectively.
Menopausal women are leaving their jobs
As a result, through no fault of their own, a staggering one quarter of women (23%) who have experienced menopause-related illness have left their jobs. Another fifth (18%) have not been given a pay rise or promotion and more than one in ten (13%) have had to endure a disciplinary procedure.
These departures are simply not sustainable for thousands of businesses in today’scandidate-driven labour market. Yet millions of women are at risk of losing their job or leaving due to a widespread lack of awareness and support offered and continuing stigma surrounding menopause.
It’s worth noting that a whopping 17% of all female employees are currently experiencing health issues related to menopause – a figure which rises to one third among those aged 45-54. Not only is this a sizeable and valuable talent pool whoemployers should be keeping onside, treating thempoorlycould open employers up to legal sanctions, compounding their losses.
The menopause explained
The menopause is a natural part of ageing when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally, as their oestrogen levels decline. Women are typically between 45 and 55 years of age when they reach this life stage, but around one in 100 experience it before their 40th birthday. This is known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.
Medical proceduresto combatcommon conditions, such as cancer,can induce menopause. They include removal of both ovaries, chemotherapy, radiation therapy to the pelvis and hormonal therapy.
Common symptoms of menopause include hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, extreme fatigue, low mood and emotional ups and downs and problems with memory and concentration. As can be imagined, menopause can have a massive effect on performance, attitudes and behaviour at work.
How to help women at work
There are a number of simple measures to help women work through the menopause.They include flexible hours;being offered the opportunity to talk, mental health support and time off; changes to the workplace temperature and ventilation; increased breaks; and being provided with a private area.
These will create a more accommodating workplace for menopausal women, enabling them to remain productive. Support and recognition from their employer can also make them feel happier and more engaged.
Obviously, it is important that business leaders and managers communicate all these effectively, because if they don’t know about the supportthat is available, then it’s not worth having it in the first place.
Starting the conversation
With this in mind – and to ensure that the right support is offered to each employee – managers should invite female employees to talk with them privately. These conversations should be offered, but not required, as some people may prefer not to discuss these issues. The outcome of effective discussions should include an understanding of whether and how menopause is affecting their work and what the employer can do to help each employee (a one-size-fits-all solution is unlikely).
Organisations should see to it that their leaders are trained to support team members experiencing menopause. This will equip them to have conversations about it, know what support is available for women, understand their own role and responsibilities in this area and where the menopause sits in employment law and discrimination.
It would also be a good idea to offer those who are going through the menopausethe option of support from a member of HR, their trade union representative or a menopause wellbeing champion.Managers should also be expected to discuss the menopause more openly with all employees, to educate them and discuss possible effects on their colleagues.
Healthy work culture
Creating and maintaining a positive, open environment is likely to boost an employer’s approval ratings with people experiencing menopause, ensuring high retention levels and enviable work efficiencies.
It can help prevent women from losing confidence in their skills and abilities; having to take time off work without revealing the real reasons for doing so; mitigating the negative impacton their mental health, such as stress, anxiety and depression; andleaving their job.
Invariably, the support and lines of communication that can make all the difference in the workplace are not especially complex or expensive. It means that sensible, sensitive stepscan have a hugely positive impact on both individual wellbeing and overall business performance for relatively little effort or outlay.
To visit Benenden Health’s online menopause hub, go tohttps://www.benenden.co.uk/menopause-hub/