We all know what it’s like to have to make that call into work when we feel too ill to be present or do a good job that day
But what if we feel out of sorts on a longer term basis and have to struggle into work every day, fearful of making mistakes or simply not being at our best?
That’s the reality for thousands of women each day when they’re suffering the symptoms of the menopause and need to be present at work.
All too often, workplaces don’t have systems in place to help menopausal women make the transition and deal with their symptoms. This could mean serious ramifications for both the employee and the employer.
A recent study, by the Government Report on Menopause, reported that, based on data from the Office of National Statistics, “menopausal women are the fastest growing workforce demographic”. According to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, almost 80% of women going through the menopause are in work.
Coupled with the fact that three quarters of these woman will be experiencing at least some symptoms of the menopause, that’s a lot of women who could be struggling through their working day
In fact, there have already been successful employment tribunals against companies that haven’t supported their female staff going through this perfectly normal period of transition.
Co-authors of the Government Report on Menopause, Professor Jo Brewis and Dr Andrea Davies say that “the menopause and work is a two way street”
They say that working through the menopause is actually a good thing as it “provides fulfilment, self-esteem, identity and social support”. But, they continue, “workplaces with a lack of temperature control, cramped conditions, certain uniforms and a lot of stress can make menopause symptoms worse”.
The Faculty of Occupational Medicine say that only half of all menopausal women seek medical aid to help support their symptoms. When we consider that common menopausal symptoms include problems sleeping and concentrating, anxiety and a low mood, it’s clear what impact this could have on both businesses and employees.
Then if we add in the wrong working conditions to support women through this stage, a culture of fear and misunderstanding around the menopause and a reluctance to talk about it openly, we can see how both parties can suffer.
Further adding to the issue is the case of line managers not fully equipped with enough knowledge, either because they’re younger females or male who have little or no experience with the menopause.
But offering simple support such as a desk fan, flexible working and time off for GP appointments can significantly help
Line managers “don’t need to be menopause experts, just like they don’t have to be maternity experts” but they can make a big difference by gaining a little understanding. Creating menopause training, processes and easily accessible information to all employees will also help.
An inclusive culture covering all aspects of staff wellbeing shouldn’t be confined to a handful of workplaces and organisations
It should be standard, including offering support and guidance to menopausal employees.