Despite much attention to the topic of menopause rights in recent months, just 4 in 10 FTSE 100 companies have published the menopause-related support they offer.
Our sister company, INvolve, recently carried out this research to mark the release of their 2022 Heroes Women Role Model Lists and it shows how far workplaces still have to go in their commitment to the inclusion of women – particularly as they age.
While a cross-party group of MPs has urged the Government to mandate employers to provide reasonable adjustments for employees going through menopause, and while menopause-related discrimination in the workplace has been widely reported, as yet no such mandate has materialized.
The continued silence around menopause, coupled with little transparency into the support, if any, that is available, perpetuates the stigma regarding how menopause may affect women in the workplace.
According to Menopause Support, around 13 million women in the UK are peri- or post-menopausal, with symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks, lasting for up to 15 years.
The lack of support for those going through menopause can lead to disengagement from work, struggle to fulfill responsibilities, and can lead to some leaving the workplace entirely. Given that women generally reach menopause in their early 50s, which can be a key period in their career as they strive for leadership roles, a failure to address their needs effectively puts their career development at risk.
Countless pledges have been made to recruit women to boards and leadership positions in recent years. If companies are to attract these women, it is increasingly crucial that they openly demonstrate their commitment to active inclusion – including creating, implementing, and publicizing policies that will support them as they age.
How can companies support employees going through menopause?
Organizations can start by creating safe spaces for people to support each other and share their experiences through Employee Resources Groups (ERGs). These ERGs for employees going through menopause can provide specialist support where they are able to access expert information and doctor consultations. Companies should also start conversations around the topic in other ERGs across the company to raise awareness.
The key is to break the stigma and allow employees to communicate freely about any issues they might be having around going through menopause in order to normalize the discussion and break the needless taboo.
Businesses could also partner with organizations that specialize in menopause support where they will put in place trainings to educate leaders and other employees on the subject. It’s important that employees who aren’t going through menopause understand how this can affect members of their team and colleagues. Leaders will also be able to learn how they can effectively support employees with changes to policies and practices that improve the working life of those going through menopause.
One of these practices that companies should implement is promoting flexible working options for those who need it. This helps those going through menopause balance work demands with other aspects of their lives, such as time off for doctor appointments and any treatments they might undertake.
Leaders and managers who haven’t and will not be going through menopause need training to understand how much this affects their employees. They don’t need to be experts, they just need to show empathy and knowledge in order to adequately provide support and consideration for the employees within their teams.
Overall, organizations that want to create a thriving environment for employees should also follow best practice outlined by Henpicked’s Menopause in the Workplace, which includes:
- Introducing a clear policy or guidance documents
- Providing adequate training
- Assessing each case on its own merits
- Considering reasonable adjustments in the workplace
- Creating an open and transparent environment
In the end, companies probably already have more policies in place than they realize, and with a few tweaks, they are able to link them together to work for employees going through menopause. More importantly, once these policies are in place, they should be widely promoted company-wide; this is another step to break the stigma by ensuring that employees are aware of them and do not have to feel uncomfortable when asking about them.
It is not only for the employees’ benefit, but also for the organization’s benefit to provide the right support in their workers’ menopause journey as it shows inclusivity, and it’s good for retention and motivation.