5 ways to implement a menopause policy – and empower your workforce
Over the past 15 months I have been delighted to present on menopause management at work to the Women in Technology (WIT) network and the UK branch of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP). Therefore, it was an even greater pleasure to be invited as a guest speaker at the celebration event for International Women’s Day 2023 at Microsoft UK in London. Not only was I able to discuss a simple yet comprehensive solution to the subject, but I also shared the sofa with Jaap, the husband of a client who I supported through their menopause journey. Having experienced the misery of menopause second-hand, Jaap rightfully believes that menopause needs more open and honest discussion.
One of the biggest concerns around menopause is that even though it’s a biological inevitability for most women, 75% of UK companies don’t have a menopause policy. With symptoms ranging from joint pain and heavy bleeding to anxiety and even suicidal ideation, the menopause is as much a mental health concern as a physical one, but often fails to be considered as such.
In fact, one in ten women in the UK have left their jobs due to menopause symptoms, and over 40% of women say that they’re afraid of voicing their menopause concerns at work for fear of being dismissed or judged as incapable of doing their job. This is even more startling when we consider that women hold 30% of senior leadership roles in the UK.
Why a menopause policy is more important than you think
I was recently asked why it might be an employer’s responsibility to educate their workforce on female menopause, surely that is something every woman knows about. Well, the truth is that for many reasons women are still reluctant to accept they are of menopausal age. However, BUPA record over 900,000 women in the UK left their career because of symptoms of menopause in 2019.
With an all-time scarcity of new talent availability, it seems vital for companies to attract female returners as well as ensure and safeguard retention of more experienced and senior female employees by extending their D&I and Health & Wellbeing policies to include a policy on Menopause Management in the workplace. So, unless women feel supported at work and safe to declare their need for adjustments, many simply choose to leave.
If you care about your team and your bottom line, then creating a simple policy to support women through their menopause is an elegant solution to loss of talented colleagues who you have spent years training to senior level, and who will each cost around £30,000 to replace.
To help expedite the critical need for menopause support at work, I’d like to share five tips on how to raise awareness and implement a thoughtful menopause policy in your organisation.
#1 Ask your team
Start by speaking to your Health & Wellness team if you have one. If you haven’t, then communicate with your workforce saying that, as an extension of the H&W policies, you are beginning the work to initiate a Menopause Policy and would like to understand what reasonable adjustments would be most beneficial in your workplace.
Not only can you create a safe space in your organisation for women, but it may also help male employees to better understand the signs of menopause and support the women in their lives. My e-book Menopause Unzipped for Men helps empower men to become allies to women and break down barriers when it comes to this topic.
#2 Tweak your existing policy
If you already have a mental health, diversity and inclusion, or time-off policy, think about integrating your menopause policy within it.
In practical terms this might look like extending your long term and/or allowable absence policy by whatever number of days your business and workplace can accommodate. You might also consider adapting your uniform policy to help relieve the physical symptoms of menopause, like severe hot flushes, itchiness, joint pain and bleeding.
A successful menopause policy will also consider the stages of perimenopause and post menopause, which can be equally disorientating and distressing experiences. The mere existence of a menopause policy at work can give women the confidence to detect symptoms earlier, and plan and support their health without the fear of losing their position.
Vodafone’s ReConnect policy is a fantastic example of how to support and retain senior workforce. It helps ensure that talented women who have left the workplace for several years – often those suffering from the menopause – are able to return to work and refresh their skills.
#3 Make HR your ally
It’s important to head your policy with an appointed HR contact who works with menopause-related policy and procedure. In addition, training should be given to all line managers and stakeholders about the menopause and other age-related health experiences.
This person or group needs to be signposted within your employee handbook or Intranet which means that anyone who has concerns about their health will find a compassionate and supportive ear. Best practice is for your HR team to work alongside an ‘in-house’ support team and ensure that educational health messages are widely broadcast. If an EAP is not offered, it’s perfectly possible to create this support without one. The addition of a support group which could offer regular drop-in sessions to discuss a wide range of health issues is often more beneficial than a faceless helpline.
#4 Inform and educate
To enable women’s understanding and acceptance that menopause is often the cause of their seemingly random health symptoms, hang posters in washrooms with advice on menopause symptoms, and signpost to further support and information. Every company can anticipate needs by offering complimentary fans to everyone and ensure the availability of adequate sanitary products. The key thing to remember here is discretion, as companies should not signpost individual colleagues and risk causing further feelings of alienation.
#5 Establish a support community
I believe that community can be created from within the culture of a company by introducing regular communal meetups. Even if these events take place without the formality of an organiser like a company wellness champion for instance, conversations around menopause support will generate and grow.
In companies that have a Menopause Policy with procedures to back it up, there is a greater sense of inclusivity and safety for all employees. When women feel it is safe to mention a reason why their work rate is erratic, or why they need more time to finish a project, they will feel less stressed. By itself, less stress makes many symptoms of menopause more manageable. Interestingly, when women understand they are not alone with their symptoms, and that whatever they are working through is normal for this phase in their lives, there is a huge sense of relief and a re-invigoration of intent to do their best work and to keep reaching for more responsibility and leadership.
Get a ‘Menopause Friendly’ accreditation
To build a workplace that champions its people, workplace policy must include women’s health issues. Menopause Unzipped at Work offers a comprehensive system of support leading to an accreditation as a ‘Menopause Friendly’ workplace, whether you’re a small retailer, a multinational corporation or a manufacturer. I sincerely believe that, with the right guidance, all companies can implement a menopause policy that helps women bring their best selves to work.
It’s always been my opinion that if every conversation saves one career from implosion, or one marriage from divorce, then it has been a great conversation. Therefore, the creation of menopause allies within the workplace is beneficial to all.
I have published two books on menopause; after the first I realised I was not going to reach enough women and decided to take my message into the workplace where more than 75% of women in menopausal age are. My second book is an e-book titled Menopause Unzipped for Men and aims to support relationships through the changes menopause brings. Most importantly, this book offers advice on beginning a conversation with a colleague or loved one, which is the opening to even greater support.
Find out more
About the author
I am a certified menopause coach and educator. My work aims to end the misery of menopause, to correct misinformation and normalise conversations about menopause symptoms. As the go-to expert in this field, I offer corporate training and one-on-one coaching with senior executives. I am also the author of two bestselling lifestyle guides, Menopause Unzipped: How to emerge a goddess, and Menopause Unzipped For Men: What Women Need Men To Know About Female Menopause. Both books are available on Amazon.
For all corporate training and personal coaching enquiries, please visit www.menopauseunzippedatwork.com