How to support employees facing the menopause
Menopause is becoming a more frequent topic of conversation in the workplace as part of wellbeing strategies and also under diversity, equity and inclusion policies. With some high-profile celebrities raising the issues, society is beginning to recognise the need for more open conversations surrounding the menopause, and employers are increasingly expected to have policies in place to provide support.
While there is support available regarding the menopause, and awareness is growing, neither is yet wide nor consistent enough across businesses. If employers want to stay ahead of the game and remain competitive, they need to embrace this important area.
The menopause has been a hidden aspect of women’s lives for many years, especially within the workplace. There is a lack of understanding and knowledge about the menopause among women as well as men. Women may be struggling to get an appointment with their doctor, or to find a GP that fully understands the menopause and its associated symptoms, meaning it may go unrecognised or unsupported for a long time.
The more that the menopause is discussed and understood, the more women can access the support they may need. Many of the options for support in the workplace are simple and cost effective for employers to implement.
Good practice for employers
There are a number of steps that employers can take to support employees:
- Develop a menopause policy. Engage with the workforce to create this and ensure it is well communicated
- Remove the taboo by making the menopause a normal part of conversation. Hold employee workshops as part of this
- Offer resources to staff where appropriate
- Raise awareness among all staff
- Use training and workshops to equip managers to have supportive conversations regarding the menopause
- Enable small adjustments where possible, like more flexible working hours, additional breaks, uniform changes
- Provide reassurance
Do not make assumptions
Employers should be careful not to make stereotypical assumptions. Although the average age for the menopause is 51, some women can have symptoms in their 20s or 30s. There may also be transgender employees affected by the menopause. It needs to be remembered that menopause can affect everyone.
Seek expert support
There are experts available who can assist employees in all areas relating to the menopause, and employers can provide access to them via their health and wellbeing benefits. These may be from self-help options to guidance and information on hormone replacement therapy. They will be able to provide education for those going through the menopause, and also for colleagues so they know how to provide support. GP access and easy referrals help to ensure employees get help quickly and easily. It is even possible to provide employees with a menopause plan, which covers a whole range of assistance in one place.
Wider health concerns
The theme for World Menopause Day 2021 is bone health. Losing bone is a natural part of ageing but women can lose bone rapidly in the first years of the menopause and women are more at risk of osteoporosis than men. Exercise, diet, and lifestyle can all have an impact on bone loss so education about this is an important part of health and wellbeing support.
The menopause is not new; but talking openly about it is, as is providing employee assistance. While this can be a difficult time for many, with support and understanding, the menopause does not need to be an issue in or for the workplace.
Sarah Dennis is Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection, which she joined in 2014 following over 17 years working as a consultant and in senior management roles in international health insurance companies including Jelf Group, Norwich Union Healthcare (Aviva UK), HealthCare International, Goodhealth Worldwide Ltd. (Aetna...