Advancing Your Menopause Policy

Menopause. It’s a hot topic of conversation for individuals and businesses alike, but with such a stigma still attached to it, the conversation around the menopause certainly packs a punch.

Every single person with female reproductive organs will experience the menopause – or ‘The Change’ – at some stage in their life, whether that be through natural causes, or medical or chemical induction.

Did you know that the menopause, where the female reproductive system no longer releases eggs, is actually just a one-day event?

As Charmaine Vincent, Founder and CEO of Baltimore Consulting explains, the perimenopause, however, can last up to 12 years, and can set off a chain-reaction of both physical and mental symptoms. The symptoms can seriously affect someone’s ability to do their job. More than that, they can also prey on their minds – a job that was “a walk in the park,” and now they are struggling. The menopause is something way out of the control of the employee, but something that the employer and the person’s colleagues must take on board and assist where possible.

As employers, Baltimore Consulting is at the leading edge in providing menopausal support for their staff. They are constantly taking steps towards providing clients with advice and educating everyone on how to advance menopause policy in the workplace.

Recently, I attended the Institute of Government & Public Policy’s ‘Advancing Menopause Policy in the Workplace’ online conference. The event was of special importance to me, having experienced early perimenopause and feeling its impact on life, both personally and professionally, first-hand. At 36 years old, I began experiencing anxiety for the first time, alongside debilitating brain fog, mood swings and hot sweats.

It took two years of unsuccessful GP visits before my fortune changed. I started receiving medical attention from Bristol’s Menopause clinic, where they diagnosed my symptoms as perimenopausal. They got her started on her journey with oestrogen. Now, at 40 and two years into my HRT journey, the physical and mental changes have been literally game-changing for me.

I am not alone. A parliamentary report found that one in 100 people with female reproductive organs go through the menopause under the age of 40, with one in 1000 experiencing menopause under 30.

So why aren’t we seeking help?

I believe it is largely down to ‘shame’. Approximately 35,000 30–45-year-olds in the UK are walking around with undiagnosed menopausal symptoms because there isn’t enough education or support around the menopause. Far too often, people don’t even realise that they’re experiencing menopausal symptoms because they feel shame, or they’re being turned away by GPs because they’re ‘too young’.

Whilst the average age of menopause is 51, people with female reproductive organs can live through the perimenopause for 12 years beforehand. This accounts for such a huge workforce population, so change needs to happen.

Perhaps the best-known physical symptoms are hot flushes and irritability, but in addition, the employee may suffer from insomnia, fatigue, headaches, poor concentration, and urinary issues. These issues and a possible hormone imbalance can lead to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, panic attacks, mood swings, memory issues and loss of confidence – all things which can impact the way someone performs their role.

Undeniably, all these would affect a woman’s ability to remain productive and happy in the workplace. Therefore, it is more important than ever to work to remove the taboo surrounding menopausal policy in a professional environment. Stigma, lack of support and discrimination play key roles in forcing menopausal employees out of the workplace.

In a survey of over 2,000 women commissioned by the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, 67% reported ‘a loss of confidence’ due to menopausal symptoms, and 70% reported ‘increased stress’.

Despite this, only 12% of respondents sought any workplace adjustments, with 1 in 4 citing their worries about an employer’s reaction as their reason for not doing so. In a nutshell, you could lose a valuable experienced team member because you miss, rather than mitigate their menopause challenges.

The Advancing Menopause Policy in the Workplace conference addressed current policies and inequalities related to menopause in the workplace and offered insight into developing a stronger workplace culture regarding menopause, looking at overcoming discrimination and implementing practical support.

Here are a few simple ideas to consider as part of a menopause policy that mitigates, not just ticks a box.

  • Look at the person’s workspace regarding its nearness to the toilets or away from cold spots.
  • Conduct a general risk assessment to see if there are factors that could have a negative impact on an employee with the menopause.
  • Work with the employee. Do they experience moments during the day when fatigue can suddenly hit them?
  • Ask if they would feel more comfortable working from home.
  • It could be that being around the positive influence of colleagues could help stave off or reduce feelings of depression.
  • Engender a team spirit where colleagues can help and do their bit to support and help their fellow worker.