Is Your Workplace Menopause Friendly?

Two women sat at a desk having a meeting.

One of the most upsetting things about how menopause is viewed and misunderstood is the fact that nearly one million women leave their jobs during menopause because they don't feel supported to manage their symptoms at work, and may feel ashamed to speak up and ask for accommodations.  While menopause isn't considered to be a disability, the wording of the Disability Discrimination Act is relevant: a disabled person is “someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [their] ability to carry out... day-to-day activities”.

It could be argued that menopause, at its worst, really does have a substantial effect on our ability to carry out day-to-day activities and it can mean we wear ourselves out just trying to keep up with daily life.  Given the adverse knock on effect on our mental health and self-esteem we could end up suffering needlessly, when this path could be avoided by having proper support in the workplace.

The Wellbeing of Women charity has paired up with Hello magazine with support from Bupa to create the Workplace Menopause Pledge, an initiative designed to ensure that menopause is de-stigmatised and that women are empowered to speak up and ask for accommodations and support when they need it.  So far over 600 organisations have signed up to the pledge and it is hoped that every employer in the country will take this on board.  One of the most recent workplaces to sign the pledge is the House of Commons; speaker Lindsay Hoyle said that his office is run by women and he did not want to see any of them have to leave work just because of the menopause.

It was Labour MP Carolyn Harris who brought up the subject, having herself been on the wrong end of a menopause misdiagnosis.  She had been prescribed antidepressants by her GP for 12 years after menopause was discounted as a cause of her low mood.  This is an experience that many women can relate to, having been dismissed or misdiagnosed.  Guidelines now state that women presenting with low mood and depression for the first time in their mid to late 40s should be offered HRT as a first step, rather than antidepressants, as it is now recognised that in these circumstances the root cause of the depression is likely to be menopause and hormone related.

There are lots of things that a workplace can do to support people going through menopause, from providing more water coolers to having desk fans as standard, and even providing a break room and allowing women to take more frequent breaks when they need them.  De-stigmatising taking medication at your desk, or providing wellbeing sessions and facilitating support groups at lunchtimes are also easy to implement and help us to stay in work through what can be a very challenging time.  Lightweight, breathable uniforms and a relaxation of a dress code are practical changes that make a big difference. 

As a company making products to help people through menopause, we are already a menopause friendly employer, but if you think your workplace can do more to support you and your colleagues through the menopause then join the campaign, get the word out among your co-workers (of any gender!) and raise the issue in your next company meeting.  The CIPD have put together a fabulous guide for employers which covers the reasonable adjustments they can make and offers practical advice for sticking to the Workplace Menopause Pledge.  Let's make the idea of leaving work because of menopause symptoms a relic of the past where it belongs.

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