This week the House of Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, signed a pledge vowing to make the House of Commons “menopause friendly” for staff. The Commons Speaker said it should not be a “taboo subject” that was “swept under the carpet”.
The Menopause Workplace Pledge has been signed by more than 600 organisations including the civil service, Tesco’s and John Lewis, and obligates employers to recognise that women going through the menopause may need support in the workplace – the menopause can lead to symptoms such as hot flushes, sleeplessness, changes to mood as well as conditions like osteoporosis.
Health, safety and wellbeing
For employers, the menopause is a health and safety and wellbeing concern for staff and needs to be handled sensitively. Supporting and creating a positive and open environment between an employer and someone affected by the menopause can help prevent the person from:
• losing confidence in their skills and abilities
• feeling like they need to take time off work and hide the reasons for it
• having increased mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression
• leaving their job
Who is affected?
The menopause usually happens between 45 and 55 years of age but it can also happen earlier or later in someone’s life. For many people symptoms last about 4 years, but in some cases symptoms can last a lot longer and can vary from very mild to severe.
Although the menopause will only be experienced by women and other people who have a menstrual cycle, men should also be included in conversations and training. This is because they might be supporting others going through it.
Supporting staff through the menopause
It’s important for employers to support staff through every stage of the menopause. Having early and regular follow-up conversations with staff to understand their needs can help make sure support and procedures are in place so they can continue to do their job effectively.
1. Developing a menopause policy
To help staff feel supported it’s a good idea to have a policy specifically for the menopause. This should be shared across the whole organisation, be regularly reviewed and be the basis for any training the organisation gives to managers. A policy can help everyone in the organisation understand:
• what the menopause is and how it can affect people
• how it affects everyone differently
• what support is available to staff affected by it
The menopause policy could also:
• explain what training is provided to managers and team leaders
• explain who the organisation’s point of contact is for queries related to the menopause
• show how the organisation is open and trained to talk and listen sensitively about the effects of the menopause
• include the employer’s commitment to support its diverse workforce and to prevent discrimination.
2. Consider job flexibility
Employers should consider how the person’s job role and responsibilities could make their menopause symptoms harder to deal with, for example if:
• they work long shifts
• they cannot take regular toilet breaks
• their job requires a uniform which may cause discomfort
• their job does not have much flexibility
There are several steps employers can take to make sure they have early conversations with staff and find solutions before problems arise.
3. Training managers
It can give staff more confidence to talk to their managers about the effects of the menopause on their work if they know the managers are trained to:
• talk and listen sensitively
• find ways to give support
• have knowledge of the menopause and its effects
• know what support and guidance the organisation can offer
Employers should train all managers and team leaders to make sure they understand:
• how the law relates to the menopause
• how to talk with and encourage staff to raise any menopause concerns
• how different stages and types of menopause can affect staff
• what support and workplace changes are available to staff
• how to deal with menopause issues sensitively and fairly
• how gender identity links to the menopause and why it’s important.
4. Carrying out health and safety checks
By law, employers are responsible for the health and safety of all staff, including those working from home. Employers must conduct a risk assessment of their staff’s workplace, including any working from home. This includes:
• generally assessing health and safety risks at work
• minimising, reducing and where possible removing health and safety risks for staff
For staff affected by the menopause this includes:
• ensuring menopause symptoms are not made worse by the workplace or its work practices
• making changes to help staff manage their symptoms when doing their job
For the menopause, a risk assessment could include:
• the temperature and ventilation of the workplace
• the material and the fit of the organisation’s uniform, if there is one, and whether it might make staff going through the menopause feel too hot or cause discomfort
• whether there’s somewhere suitable for staff to rest if needed, for example a quiet room
• whether toilet facilities are easily accessible
• whether cold drinking water is available
• whether managers and supervisors have been trained on health and safety issues relating to the menopause
Employers should also make sure that staff know they can approach their managers to raise any health and safety issues and will not be put at a disadvantage or treated less favourably if they do.
5. Managing sickness absence and job performance
Because the menopause can be long term and affects everyone differently, managing absence from work should be handled sensitively. Employers should keep talking with their staff and be prepared to:
• make changes to help staff continue to work
• take into consideration any performance issues which might be because of menopause symptoms
It’s a good idea for employers to talk to staff about any changes that could help them do their job. Staff should also be given a reasonable amount of time to adjust to any changes made.
When someone is off sick because of the menopause, the employer should record these absences separately from other absences. This is because there may be times when it could be unfair or discriminatory to measure menopause-related absence as part of the person’s overall attendance record.
In a nutshell….
The aim should be to normalise discussion about the menopause at work, raise awareness and understanding, build a psychologically safe environment and provide guidance, practical support and training for those managers to ensure they are best placed to support their staff.
If you would like any advice or a menopause policy for your handbook email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 7917 878384