CIPD Voice: Issue 21

The ultimate taboo

The menopause is a natural stage of life experienced by most women, yet it remains a taboo subject in many workplaces. CIPD research1 shows that only a quarter of women who had been unable to go into work due to menopausal symptoms had felt able to tell their line manager the real reason for their absence. The result is that many women suffer in silence while often a few small practical adjustments at work could make a world of difference to someone experiencing menopause transition.

Time to build momentum to create inclusion and productivity

As a nation we face the twin challenges of improving productivity and international competitiveness. We need to invest in the skills we need now and for the future to drive innovation and encourage more agile and responsive businesses that look to the long term. How organisations manage people, and the attention they pay to their health, well-being and inclusion, is pivotal to creating working environments that engage people and enhance performance

By taking the menopause seriously and treating it as an occupational health and people management issue, organisations can help to mitigate the potential negative impact of symptoms on the individual and the organisation.

A public policy imperative and our Parliament launch

Supporting women through menopause transition strikes at the heart of a number of high-profile and pressing public policy issues – employee health and well-being at work, the economic participation of women, and gender equality and inclusion in the workplace. Women in the age bracket typically experiencing menopause transition are the fastest-growing employee group in the labour market. They are also typically at the peak of their careers, representing a highly skilled and experienced talent pool.

We took the opportunity during World Menopause Month, to launch our Menopause policy calls at the Houses of Parliament. In a CIPD breakfast event hosted by Rachel Maclean MP (a prominent Menopause advocate), we also heard from Carolyn Harris MP, shadow minister in the equalities office, as well as Janet Trowse from Network Rail a leading employer when it comes to Menopause support at work. CIPD Public Policy advisers Rachel Suff and Claire McCartney made our three compelling Menopause policy calls to Government, as follows:

  1. The Government should ensure that menopause is referenced as a priority issue in its public policy agenda on work, and diversity and inclusion

    Menopause has been largely neglected as an economic, workplace and diversity and inclusion issue throughout recent government strategies and policy papers. The Modern Industrial Strategy, Fuller Working Lives Strategy, Ageing Grand Challenge, and Improving Lives Strategy all address key economic challenges such as keeping people in work for longer, reducing the gender pay gap, and employee health and well-being, yet none of these mention the menopause. We are calling on the Government to consider menopause when scoping out the implications of public policy and make this explicit in their policy papers.

  2. The Government should nominate a Menopause Ambassador to represent the interests of women experiencing menopause transition across government departments

    To aid with the first recommendation, we are calling on the Government to appoint a Menopause Ambassador who can work across departments such as GEO, BEIS, DWP and DHSC to ensure that they are joined up and considering the implications of public policy on women experiencing menopause transition.

  3. The Government should support an employer-led campaign to raise awareness of the menopause as a workplace issue

    To improve the experience of women experiencing the menopause while they are still working, the Government should publicly support an employer-led campaign to raise awareness of the menopause as a workplace issue. The campaign should be supported by professional bodies, trade unions and employer groups, and focus on improving workplace and people management practices such as flexible working, line management, and health and well-being at work policies. This will help to keep women in work for longer, reduce the gender pay gap, erase some of the stigma attached to the menopause, and improve productivity.

    We will continue to build momentum around our Menopause work and public policy calls to gain traction and action from the Government and employers on this very important issue.

CIPD resources for employers

The CIPD has worked with a wide range of experts, organisations and practitioners to create a suite of free downloadable and printable resources to help employers develop menopause-friendly workplaces, including guides for HR professionals and line managers, practical tips to make reasonable adjustments, posters and leaflets.

1 The CIPD and YouGov surveyed 1,409 working women experiencing menopause symptoms in March 2019

Claire McCartney

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.