Menopause in the Workplace – An HR Guide

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Headshot of Deborah Mantkelow Deborah Manktelow
blog-publish-date 30 June 2022

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%.

Many employers are now managing an ageing workforce, and need to take the issues that impact them into account. Menopause is one of these issues.

In this guide, we explore what your responsibilities are as an employer, and how you can support staff.

You can also access this guide as a free booklet. Click the link at the bottom of the article to download your guide.

What is the menopause?

  • The menopause is the time during a woman’s life when menstruation periods permanently stop
  • This can cause a chain reaction of physical and psychological side-effects to a woman’s body
  • Whilst symptoms vary from person to person, they can be present for up to 12 years

Who does the menopause affect?

  • Generally, women in their mid to late 40s or early 50s
  • However, 1 in 20 women may go through an early menopause
  • The menopause can be induced earlier due to a separate illness such as cancer, or surgical intervention, such as a hysterectomy
  • Trans men who are proposing to go through, or have already gone through, the process to change gender from a woman to a man may also experience symptoms

What are the legal implications of the menopause?

As an employer, you have a duty of care to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your staff. Women going through the 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’ll be held responsible.

The legal implications don’t end there. Individuals 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. With this in mind, it’s in your best interest to have policies and procedures in place to address concerns and handle issues that occur.

What are the advantages of pre-planning for the menopause?

One obvious advantage is that you will avoid legal liabilities. This can result in costly claims and damage to your reputation.

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. If you’re having any doubts, it’s estimated that around one in six women in the workforce this year will be over the age of 50.

Make sure you’re ahead of the curve. If you need independent advice on reviewing and adjusting your policies and procedures, give us a call today on 01455 858 132.

The psychological symptoms of the menopause

Everyone experiences the menopause differently. As a result, you should be prepared for several symptoms, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Problems with memory
  • Loss of confidence
  • Mood swings

This is not an exhaustive list. Some symptoms may be more severe for others.

Why do employees not come forward?

Despite being a process half of the population experiences, many individuals are hesitant to discuss 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 generally unsympathetic. Alternatively, their concern might be about how their colleagues treat them once they know. In some cases, managers might pass them over for promotions or development opportunities.

These are just a few of the possible barriers to sharing their condition. But what is the solution? Awareness and open communication are key to making the individual comfortable enough to share.

Raising awareness

Here are just a few ideas on how you can raise awareness of the 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

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 the 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

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 the menopause include:

  • Ventilation and air quality
  • Access to drinking water
  • Toilet facilities
  • Temperature/light control
  • Uniforms and protective equipment
  • Flexibility of break times
  • Workloads
  • 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 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 the menopause. It should include:

  • Clarity on what the menopause is.
  • Information on how women who are suffering from the 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 the menopause will differ depending on the individual. There are a number of options you can consider, such as:

  • Moving the employee closer to toilets
  • Letting the employee use 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
  • Refer the employee to external companies
  • 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 the menopause. How should you respond? You should try to remain flexible and supportive in these situations where you can.

It is advisable that these absences are not noted on an absence record or lead to any form of disciplinary warning unless absolutely 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 obtain a GP report.

Be mindful of bullying behaviour

Bullying can serve to make symptoms of the 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. It goes without saying that 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 01455 858 132.

Or, download your free guide by clicking the link below:

 

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About the Author

Headshot of Deborah Mantkelow

Deborah Manktelow is a CIPD Qualified HR professional with over 7 years’ experience in generalist HR management working within the Construction Industry.

Working for a National provider of Insulation provided Deborah with the opportunity to strategically support Operations across the UK, supporting HR functions and the wider business.

Deborah is Croner’s Advice Manager, taking responsibility for overseeing the provision of advice to all Croner clients, bringing together our Corporate, Simplify and Association service provisions.