What is menopause?
Menopause is a natural stage of life which affects women and other people who have a menstrual cycle. This can include trans people – 'trans' is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.
People with 'variations of sex development' (VSD) – some people might prefer to identify as intersex or use the term 'differences in sex development' (DSD). It’s important to note that with younger women there is a condition called Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) which is sometimes confused with premature menopause. These conditions aren’t the same but those affected will need help and support too.
It is estimated that around 60% of women will experience symptoms resulting in behavioural changes, and 25% will experience severely debilitating symptoms with an estimated 14 million working days lost every year because of menopause.
Research has shown that as many as 25% of women have considered resigning because of a lack of support from their employer and the estimated cost of recruiting to a vacant post can be anything between £30,000 - £35,000.
With added potential loss of intellectual capital, it is important for employers to actively support their staff through this natural stage of their life. Every successful company wants to attract and keep talent. By adopting an inclusive and progressive culture, companies will foster trust within their organisation where employees are more likely to stay and be attractive to potential new talent.
Menopause training for managers
Women over 50 are currently shown to be the fastest growing demographic of the workforce and a large number of these will be negatively impacted by menopause symptoms. The physical and emotional changes that affect some women through the peri and post-menopause can create temporary difficulties for them which may have an unavoidable impact on their workplace performance.
Managers play a vital role in determining the health, wellbeing and engagement of their team.
They also play an essential part in managing particular circumstances that arise such as bereavement, conflict, sickness absence and mental health problems, all of which can have a negative impact on employee health, well-being and engagement if not well managed.
Managers will often be the first point of contact when experiencing challenges, therefore it is important to create an open environment to safely talk about menopause.
If you’re unsure how to talk with your colleague or think you don’t have sufficient knowledge, focus on the following: listen, empathise and offer to help finding additional support.
Additional ways of supporting them could be directing them to the menopause champion (if there are any at your company), bringing in an external expert to talk about menopause (educational event) or suggest reading about the pressing topic on myTamarin Resource page where menopause experts share their views and knowledge.
Menopause policies within organisations
Having a menopause policy in place should be a top priority at every organisation (usually a responsibility of the HR or Policy team).
A good starting point for creating a menopause policy is by using myTamain's free and fully editable policy template.
A comprehensive menopause policy should include guidance and direction to those impacted and raise awareness of the menopause amongst management and staff. It should include definitions around flexible working time and office arrangements (ventilations & fans, breathable uniforms), which should be flexible enough to ensure that they meet the needs of those impacted to accommodate short notice leave.
What is more, it should be clearly defined that individuals going through menopause are not penalised through sickness and absence policies, supporting a cultural change to break the stigma and taboo on menopause and to normalise the menopause discussion.
It is important that women suffering from menopause symptoms are given the same support as they would with any other health-related issues to avoid potential unfair treatment and discrimination.
The nature of the discrimination faced by women due to menopause breaks down into two categories:
Workplaces are not designed to take account of the female life cycle properly, resulting in ignorance of the menopause, peri-menopause and its effects, and in working practices which create barriers for women at work.
Less favourable treatment, indirect discrimination and harassment
In reality the first category causes more difficulties for women but there is still strong evidence that discrimination is a widespread problem.
Sickness and flexible working policies need to consider menopause, taking into account symptoms that may affect a woman’s ability to perform and work.
Symptoms such as night sweats and sleeping problems can severely impact performance. Anxiety and brain fog can affect confidence. And the list of symptoms goes on. It’s important to understand why your colleague’s productivity has been affected (lack of sleep, difficulty to concentrate, brain for - all due to menopause) and how you as a manager can help.
And it’s not just managers, organisations must be understanding and flexible with their staff to make sure they’re performing and getting the best productivity and engagement from them.
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