Menopause and perimenopause directly affect more than 50% of the population between the ages of 45 and 55. Yet, recent findings show that 47% do not feel supported by their workplace during menopause, while one in six people has considered leaving work due to a lack of support for their (peri)menopause symptoms.
Commenting on these findings, Sarah Mayo, a renowned workplace mental health specialist and co-founder of POINT3 Wellbeing, said: “The challenges faced during peri and menopause can have a profound impact on people’s professional lives, placing them under significant pressure. But these findings suggest a glaring gap in the support offered to menopausal people at work.”
While menopause typically occurs around the age of 51, perimenopause is the transitional period leading up to menopause and can begin in a person’s late 30s or early 40s, bringing about symptoms similar to menopause with varying intensity and duration.
With women over 50 now representing the fastest-growing demographic in the UK workplace, symptoms including brain fog, anxiety, sleep deprivation, and memory loss, can create significant difficulties while dealing with workloads.
Yet, only 37% of managers have been offered training around menopause, according to a recent study. It also found that when employees approached managers to talk about their menopause, 25% of managers didn’t know what to do, while 16% believed the employee was lying to excuse bad work.
Sarah continued: “Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life cycle, but this is a clear sign that workplaces are falling behind in offering suitable, comprehensive, and empathetic support for women dealing with menopause.”
“That is why for World Menopause Day, I am outlining four simple initiatives managers can introduce to make positive and lasting changes to their workplace, and better support employees going through menopause.”
One of the simplest ways people in the workplace can support each other through menopause is to seek to understand the other person and to be empathetic to their needs and perspectives.
There are many overlaps between menopause and mental health – not least many of the symptoms associated with menopause are psychological or impact our cognition, so the more we can employ emotional intelligence skills such as active listening, non-judgement, and compassion, the more people will feel seen, heard, and understood.
Managers play a pivotal role in the wellbeing of employees and are uniquely positioned to bridge the knowledge gap around peri and menopause and provide essential support.
Investing in educating and upskilling managers is vital so that they understand the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of menopause, and how these manifest in the workplace. Managers can then introduce strategies and awareness to foster supportive and inclusive cultures where employees feel valued and understood.
Sarah advised: “There is still a huge amount of stigma and misunderstanding around menopause which can make it an isolating and distressing experience for people going through it. With key training, managers will have the emotional intelligence skills to create safe spaces for employees, encourage open dialogue around menopause, and support employees through this phase of life.”
With the education and skills gained, managers have the ability to evaluate and identify gaps in support for menopausal individuals, creating the opportunity to introduce suitable, comprehensive support frameworks.
This can include sharing educational training with wider team members, promoting wellbeing and mental health awareness, providing access to dedicated support groups and resources, and specialised HR support – such as clear and confidential channels for employees to seek advice and assistance.
Sarah said: “Being more thoughtful and aware of how menopause can impact someone’s life can make a huge difference for someone experiencing it, helping them feel more supported and understood in the workplace. It also continues to normalise the conversation and ensure that women don’t face discrimination or additional challenges in their careers.”
Earlier this year, MPs rejected the recommendation for menopause leave and dismissed a recommendation to include menopause as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. This decision marks the urgent need for workplaces to proactively address the challenges that menopausal women face, and consider implementing flexible and fair work arrangements.
By recognising that menopause symptoms can vary widely in intensity and duration, offering flexible and fair work arrangements such as adjusted hours, remote working, or part-time schedules can be of invaluable support. Managers could also look to implement a phased return to work policy after absenteeism, with regular check-ins to support employees.
Sarah advised: “Allowing employees the opportunity to adapt their work environments to their specific needs during this phase will help to reduce stress and anxiety of symptoms and increase morale and wellbeing, leading to improved productivity and job satisfaction.”
“Introducing effective initiatives, awareness, and education should become a key priority for workplaces. Not only will this signal a commitment to employees’ wellbeing and mental health, but it will be a huge step forward in challenging stigmas and misconceptions around peri and menopause in the workplace.”