15.52 million women aged 16+ were in employment at the end of last year in the UK. Meanwhile, the employment rate for those aged 50 – 64 is 71.1%.
Employers like you must understand the employment landscape includes an ageing population., You, therefore, need to take into account age-related issues that may affect older employees. Menopause is one of these issues.
In this guide, we explore what your responsibilities are as an employer, and how you can support staff who may be going through the menopause
What is the menopause?
Menopause is when a woman's periods stop happening due to a lower level of hormones in the body. This can cause a chain reaction of physical and psychological side effects on women’s bodies. Whilst the symptoms may vary from person to person, they can last for around 12 years, depending on the individual.
Who does the menopause affect?
Menopause generally starts to affect women who are in their mid to late 40s or early 50s. Around 1 in 20 women can go through menopause early, in some cases the menopause can be induced by separate illnesses such as cancer, or by surgical intervention such as a hysterectomy.
Transgender men who are planning to go through, or have already gone through the process to change gender may also experience menopause symptoms.
What are my legal obligations to employees going through menopause?
As an employer, you have a duty of care to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your staff. Women going through menopause can experience a wide variety of symptoms from mild to severe. Some may significantly impact their wellbeing. If an accident should occur, or the employee falls seriously ill on your watch, you could be held responsible.
The legal implications don’t end there. Employees going through menopause may experience disability, sex, or age discrimination from colleagues or managers. If discrimination does occur while at work, the responsibility once again falls to you. It's important to have policies, rules and steps in place to deal with problems and handle issues that come up.
Businesses that fail to implement strong anti-discrimination policies could easily end up paying thousands of pounds in compensation at an employment tribunal. If you need specific support on this, why not contact Croner.
What are the advantages of pre-planning for the menopause?
One obvious advantage is that pre-planning your support structure for employees going through menopause will help you avoid legal liabilities.
Being prepared will also mean you can more effectively manage sickness and absence during this period. Responding positively means you encourage employee retention and company reputation.
Make sure you’re ahead of the curve. If you need independent advice on adjusting your policies and procedures, get in touch with one of our experts 0800 124 4134.
The psychological symptoms of the menopause
Everyone experiences menopause differently. As a result, you should be prepared for several symptoms, including:
- Panic attacks.
- Problems with memory.
- Loss of confidence.
- Mood swings.
- Heart disease.
This is not an exhaustive list. Some symptoms may be more severe for others. It’s important that you discuss the situation with your employees and encourage open communication. This will allow you to understand their needs and be able to make reasonable adjustments.
Why do employees not come forward?
Despite being something that all women in the workforce will eventually experience, many individuals are hesitant when it comes to discussing it with their employers. There are a number of reasons this might be the case.
Often, employees won’t come forward if their manager is younger, male, or appears unsympathetic. Alternatively, their concern might be about how their colleagues treat them once they know. There may be a fear that managers might pass them over for promotions or development opportunities.
These are just a few of the possible barriers to sharing their condition. What is the solution? Awareness and open communication are key to making the individual comfortable enough to share.
Raising awareness of menopause in the workplace
Here are just a few ideas on how you can raise awareness of menopause in your business:
- Hold lunchtime awareness sessions and workshops
- Provide leaflets and signposting
- Organise workplace menopause action and support groups
- Liaise with third-party organisations
- Provide access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
Training managers to handle menopausal employees
Educating line managers is a great way of breaking down barriers too. It gives the employee a first port of call for any issues—someone they are more familiar with.
All line managers, and HR representatives, should be familiar with company procedures/policies on menopause and know how to respond to employees who come forward in a non-discriminatory and open manner.
Managers should always take this seriously; for example, they should never attempt to trivialise a woman’s experience, such as saying her colleague did not have it as bad.
It is also advisable to have a specially trained point of contact within the organisation, such as a welfare officer, trade union rep or counsellor, for employees to go to.
Carrying out a risk assessment for menopause
You aren’t legally required to carry out a menopause risk assessment. However, it may be useful to do so, or at least include certain points within your standard assessment. Areas to assess relating to menopause include:
- Ventilation and air quality
- Access to drinking water
- Toilet facilities
- Temperature/light control
- Uniforms and protective equipment
- Flexibility of break times
- Awareness of the menopause
- Training open to managers
- Negative attitudes
- Instances of bullying or harassment
- Insecure employment
Holding a discussion with an employee
The first point to note is that employees should only come forward out of their own choice. Once they do come forward they should be provided the option to speak to someone who isn’t their manager. This could be an HR representative or welfare officer.
An objective discussion should be held over their particular problems and steps that can be taken to assist them. All discussions should be recorded in writing but kept confidential.
Any changes you do make as a result of the initial discussion should be regularly reviewed. It may also be worth inviting the individual back for a follow-up meeting so you can assess how effective the changes have been.
Constructing a policy on the Menopause
It isn’t a legal requirement to have a menopause policy. However, having one means you can clearly outline any organisational procedures that are in place to assist women going through menopause. It should include:
- Clarity on what menopause is.
- Information on how women who are suffering from menopause can raise this issue at work.
- Outline factors that the company accepts may make it difficult for women in the workplace in this situation.
- Confirm the additional internal and external support that you will offer.
Measures you can put in place
How you address the concerns of someone going through menopause will differ depending on the individual. There are a number of options you can consider, such as:
- Relocating affected employees closer to toilets
- Permitting the use of separate toilets.
- Moving the employee from hot/cold spots
- Avoiding nylon uniforms
- Providing alternatives to heavy lifting
- Allowing additional rest breaks
- Permit flexible working
- Ensure sufficient ventilation
- Provide access to an EAP
- Provide space for the employee to rest
How should you manage employee absence?
There may be times when employees are absent from work as a result of menopause.
How should you respond?
You should try to remain flexible and supportive in these situations where you can.
These absences should be not noted on an absence record or lead to any form of disciplinary warning unless necessary.
Hold return-to-work meetings to assess what further support can be provided to an employee. In cases of long-term, or frequent absence, you may look to obtain a GP report.
Be mindful of bullying behaviour
Bullying can serve to make symptoms of menopause worse and potentially lead to related issues such as stress or depression.
A zero-tolerance approach should be operated towards any form of bullying. All accusations brought to you should be processed in line with usual company policies. Also, be aware of accusations of employee favouritism, as these can escalate and result in claims of constructive dismissal.
Manage menopause in the workplace with expert HR support
It can be difficult when you have an entire business to run, to effectively manage issues such as menopause in the workplace. You should support your employees through this time, but you might not have the capacity to do this correctly. That’s where we come in.
Our HR experts will provide 24/7 support to ensure you are both legally compliant and effectively managing your staff. Call today for initial advice on 0800 124 4134.
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