Menopause is a natural transition that affects millions of women around the world. It can also have a significant impact on their work performance, wellbeing, and career prospects. As a line manager, you have a key role to play in supporting your female employees who are going through menopause and creating a positive and inclusive work environment for them.
Here are five things you should know about menopause and how to manage it at work.
1. What is menopause and what are the symptoms?
Menopause is the stage in a woman’s life when she stops having periods. This also means that she can no longer get pregnant naturally. It usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, but it can vary depending on individual factors. The average age of menopause in the UK is 51.
Menopause is caused by a decline in the production of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone by the ovaries. This can lead to a range of physical and psychological symptoms, such as:
- Hot flushes and night sweats.
- Mood swings, anxiety and depression.
- Difficulty sleeping and fatigue.
- Memory loss and concentration problems.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Joint and muscle pain.
- Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex.
- Urinary tract infections and incontinence.
- Reduced sex drive.
- Weight gain and changes in body shape.
- Skin problems such as dryness, itching and acne.
Not all women experience the same symptoms. Additionally, the severity of symptoms can vary from person to person. Some women may have mild or no symptoms at all. Others may have severe or debilitating symptoms that affect their quality of life. The duration of symptoms can also vary from a few months to several years.
2. How does menopause affect work performance and wellbeing?
Menopause can have a negative impact on work performance and well-being for many women. According to a survey by the CIPD, 59% of women who experienced menopausal symptoms said it had a negative effect on their work. Some of the common challenges faced by menopausal women at work are:
- Reduced productivity and efficiency due to fatigue, poor sleep quality, memory loss and concentration problems.
- Increased absenteeism and presenteeism due to physical or mental health issues, medical appointments or lack of support.
- Lowered confidence and self-esteem due to mood swings, anxiety, depression or changes in appearance.
- Impaired communication and relationships with colleagues, managers or customers due to irritability, emotional sensitivity or withdrawal.
- Increased stress and pressure due to workload, deadlines, expectations or performance reviews.
- Reduced career opportunities or progression due to discrimination, stigma or lack of flexibility.
Menopause can also affect work well-being in terms of physical comfort, safety and satisfaction. For example, some women may struggle with hot flushes in a warm or poorly-ventilated office. Women with urinary problems may struggle in a workplace with limited or unsanitary toilet facilities. Some women may also feel dissatisfied with their work environment if they perceive it as unsupportive, insensitive, or hostile towards their menopausal needs.
3. What are the legal and ethical obligations of managers towards menopausal employees?
As a line manager, you have a legal and ethical duty to ensure that your menopausal employees are treated fairly, respectfully and sensitively at work. You should be aware of the following legal and ethical obligations:
The Equality Act 2010
This act protects employees from discrimination on the grounds of sex, age, disability and other protected characteristics. Menopause can be considered a sex or age-related issue. It can also be considered a disability if it has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on normal day-to-day activities. Therefore, you should not discriminate against your menopausal employees on the basis of their symptoms, needs or requests.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
This act requires employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work. Menopause can affect your employees in various ways, such as increasing the risk of accidents, injuries or illnesses due to fatigue, poor concentration or physical discomfort. Therefore, you should conduct a risk assessment for your menopausal employees and take reasonable steps to eliminate or minimise any hazards or risks.
The Employment Rights Act 1996
This act gives employees the right to request flexible working arrangements. Menopause can make it difficult for some employees to work according to fixed hours, locations or patterns. This can be due to their symptoms, medical appointments or personal circumstances. Therefore, you should consider any requests for flexible working from your menopausal employees and accommodate them where possible.
In addition to these legal obligations, you also have an ethical responsibility to promote a positive and inclusive work culture for your menopausal employees. You should aim to create an environment where your employees feel comfortable, valued and supported at work. You should also seek to raise awareness, understanding and empathy for menopause among your team members and senior leaders.
4. How can you support your menopausal employees at work?
There are many ways you can support your menopausal employees at work. This can make a huge difference to their work performance and wellbeing. Here are some practical tips you can follow:
Educate yourself and your team
Educate those around you about menopause and its symptoms, causes and effects. You can use online resources, such as the NHS website, the Menopause Matters website or the CIPD guide, to learn more about menopause and how to manage it at work. You can also organise training sessions, workshops or webinars for your team. This will help to increase their knowledge and awareness of menopause.
It’s also worth considering menopause workshops for staff. Not only do they make people more aware of signs and symptoms, but it helps to break down stigma and embarrassment and teaches your team how to support themselves and one another, too.
Communicate with your menopausal employees
Aim to communicate regularly and openly. Initiate a conversation with your employees about their menopausal experience and ask them how they are coping, what challenges they are facing and what support they need. You can also encourage them to talk to you or someone else they trust if they have any concerns or issues. You should listen to them attentively, empathetically and confidentially, and avoid making any assumptions, judgments or jokes.
Adjust your management style for menopause
Adjust your style and expectations according to your employees’ needs and preferences. Tailor your feedback, guidance and recognition to suit your employees’ mood, confidence and motivation levels. Additionally, ensure you are flexible and understanding with your employees’ workload, deadlines and performance goals. You should avoid putting unnecessary pressure or stress on your employees and give them positive reinforcement and encouragement.
Provide reasonable adjustments and accommodations
Make allowances for your employees’ physical and mental health needs. Try to offer flexible working options, such as working from home, part-time, compressed hours or job sharing, to suit your employees’ personal circumstances and preferences. You can also provide access to health and wellbeing services, such as counselling, employee assistance programmes, and even health screening to help your employees cope with their symptoms or issues. Also consider making changes to the physical work environment, such as providing fans, air conditioning, natural light, water coolers or comfortable seating, to improve your employees’ comfort and safety.
Involve your employees in the decision-making around menopause
Consult with your employees about their needs and preferences and involve them in finding solutions that work for them. Respect their choices and decisions regarding their treatment options, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), alternative therapies or lifestyle changes. You should not impose your opinions or advice on your employees or pressure them to do something they do not want to do.
5. What are the benefits of supporting menopause at work?
Supporting menopausal employees at work is not only a legal and ethical obligation, but also a smart business decision. By supporting your menopausal employees at work, you can reap the following benefits:
- Improved productivity and efficiency: By reducing the negative impact of menopause on your employees’ physical and mental health, you can help them perform better at work. You can also help them avoid mistakes, errors or accidents that could affect the quality of their work or the reputation of the company.
- Reduced absenteeism and presenteeism: By providing flexible working options, health and well-being services and a comfortable work environment, you can help your employees manage their symptoms or issues more effectively. You can also help them reduce the need to take time off work due to sickness, medical appointments or personal reasons.
- Increased retention and loyalty: By showing care, respect and appreciation for your employees, you can help them feel valued and supported at work. You can also help them maintain their confidence and self-esteem and enhance their career prospects. This can increase their satisfaction, engagement and commitment to the company.
- Enhanced diversity and inclusion: By raising awareness, understanding and empathy for menopause among your team members and senior leaders, you can help create a positive and inclusive work culture for your employees. You can also help reduce discrimination, stigma or harassment that could affect your employees’ well-being or rights.
- Competitive advantage: By supporting your menopausal employees at work, you can demonstrate your corporate social responsibility and reputation as an employer of choice for women. You can also attract and retain talented female workers who can bring valuable skills, experience and perspectives to the company.
Menopause is a natural transition that affects millions of women around the world. It can also have a significant impact on their work performance, well-being and career prospects. As a line manager, you have a key role to play in supporting your female employees who are going through menopause and creating a positive and inclusive work environment for them.
By educating yourself and your team about menopause, communicating with your menopausal employees regularly and openly, adjusting your management style and expectations according to their needs and preferences, providing reasonable adjustments and accommodations for their physical and mental health needs, involving them in the decision-making process and respecting their choices, you can support your menopausal employees at work effectively. By supporting your menopausal employees at work, you can also improve your productivity and efficiency, reduce your absentee and presenteeism, increase your retention and loyalty, enhance your diversity and inclusion, and gain a competitive advantage.
I hope you found this blog post helpful and informative. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below. Thank you for reading and have a great day!