CIPD Voice: Issue 18
At the CIPD we want to break the taboo surrounding the menopause at work. That is why we’ve published a variety of menopause resources, including two specific guides for people managers and HR, providing advice designed to create supportive work environments for women experiencing the menopause.
We have had extremely high levels of engagement on social media with our resources on this topic from individuals, organisations and policymakers with notable endorsements and re-tweets from Rachel Maclean MP, Jo Swinson MP, and Minister for Women Victoria Atkins MP. Our recent work on the menopause is part of an ongoing campaign and we’ll be seeking opportunities to build momentum around this with both employers and policymakers throughout the year to normalise the conversation and break this ‘last taboo’.
The menopause is an important workplace issue that affects many employees. There are now around 4.4 million women aged 50-64 in work (ONS 2019), and the vast majority of these will go through the menopause transition during their working lives. There is a strong business case for supporting women experiencing the menopause at work, who are often at the peak of their skills, experience and careers – enhanced talent attraction and retention, wellbeing and organisational performance. There is also a strong health and safety, as well as legal case, for taking the menopause seriously at work.
However, our research (CIPD 2019) shows that three in five women experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work; this includes increased stress levels and reduced ability to concentrate. Menopause is given a taboo status partly due to the myths, confusion, and embarrassment on the subject. While some menopausal women do receive help and understanding from colleagues and line managers, many do not disclose their symptoms to management. Many employees are too embarrassed to discuss the issue or think their manager would be embarrassed. Many women ‘typically suffer in silence’ when often a few, small, practical, adjustments could make a world of difference to those experiencing the often-uncomfortable symptoms of the menopause.
What can organisations do?
The only way to overcome the taboo and help to normalise the conversation is to start talking to, and educating people about, the menopause. The organisations featured in our guidance help to do this by holding employee focus groups to talk to people about their experiences and set up support groups and buddies for those experiencing the menopause at work. They also ensure that they are engaging with men as well as women on the issue and have senior-level support.
Develop a framework
Think about developing an organisational framework around the menopause which might be a plan, policy or guidance but ensure that you properly communicate it to all employees. A framework might outline different people’s responsibilities, include steps for building an inclusive culture, focus on good performance and people management and signposts sources of further support and information.
Educate and train your line managers
It’s really important to educate and train line managers on the menopause at work so that they are up to speed on the organisation’s framework, they are knowledgeable on the menopause and menopause symptoms, that they are comfortable having sensitive conversations and know what small adjustments or changes could support their team members.
Make small changes to create a big difference
Finally, when it comes to the menopause not everyone will have the same symptoms and experience them in the same way. That’s why it is so important for managers to have one-to-one conversations with their team members so they can find out what potentially small changes could make a big difference to employees. For those who experience hot flushes, this could mean access to desk fans and opportunities to sit near a window; for sleep disturbance symptoms, staggered start and finish times or opportunities to work from home will help; and for those experiencing disturbances to their concentration, access to quieter working spaces and more frequent breaks where possible.
For more information about our menopause at work guidance and resources, go to: www.cipd.co.uk/menopause.
Claire McCartney: Senior Policy Adviser, Resourcing and Inclusion
Claire is the Resourcing and Inclusion Policy Adviser at the CIPD. For the last two years she has been running her own research and consultancy organisation.
Claire specialises in the areas of diversity & inclusion, flexible working, resourcing and talent management. She has also conducted research into meaning and trust at work, age diversity, workplace carers and enterprise and has worked on a number of international projects. She is the author of several reports and articles and regularly presents at seminars and conferences.
Prior to her roles at the CIPD, Claire was Principal Researcher at Roffey Park where she conducted research projects into a variety of topics including Roffey Park’s annual Management Agenda survey, work-life balance, flexible working, employee volunteering, talent management, and diversity. Claire has also worked with a range of clients on tailored research needs.