For many years, the Menopause has been considered a taboo topic in the work place, much like mental health, disabilities and obesity. The CIPD have reported that women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing segment of the workforce, and most will go through the menopause transition during their working lives.
This is an issue affecting a huge proportion of our workforce, millions in fact, and we not only need to be talking about it, we need to be asking how employers can support women who are experiencing this change while at work.
The menopause will affect each woman individually; some will experience more symptoms than others and to a varying degree. In a survey conducted by the TUC, the top six symptoms that women reported as having an impact on their ability to work were fatigue and insomnia, hot flushes, difficulty concentrating, memory recall, anxiety and worry. What’s key here is that most women didn’t directly associate most of these symptoms with the menopause and therefore didn’t talk about their concerns to anyone. It seems it’s not just UK employers that are uninformed, it’s a nationwide lack of knowledge.
Most women comment that it’s not the physical symptoms that have the biggest impact, it’s the psychological ones and because of our lack of knowledge of the menopause some fear these symptoms are a sign of something far more serious.
It has been reported that GP’s see a spike in women in their late 40’s and 50’s getting tested for early onset of dementia, when in fact they are menopausal and suffering with extreme memory recall problems.
This fact alone demonstrates both the severity of some symptoms as well and the weight of concern women can be feeling at this time. If they’re not speaking about these concerns to anyone and don’t feel supported by their employer, these emotions and fears are only compounded!
By understanding what root cause of the problem, women can work with their employer to put measures in place to help alleviate these temporary issues. This could mean more flexible working during this time to combat fatigue and lack of concentration or simply having someone to talk to in order to discuss their anxieties.
As mentioned previously, symptoms will affect all women differently and these will also change overtime which means a women’s needs will also change. There will need to be ongoing discussions with management or HR at each stage of the cycle to ensure that the woman is supported accordingly and the only way this will happen is if businesses break down the taboo.
It is important that organisations begin to talk about the menopause openly with all their staff regardless of age or gender because the more we talk about it the more understanding there is and the more that can be done to help. By having an open an honest culture, employers can break the stigma and women can continue working to the best of their ability with the relevant support in place.
Managing and understanding the menopause in the workplace is beneficial to everyone. Whilst it creates a more positive and inclusive environment, it goes much further than that. As the fastest growing segment of the UK force, it is absolutely critical that employers tackle this lack of understanding in order to attract and retain the best female talent. As forward-thinking businesses put policies and support in place, the female workforce may begin to turn their back on those that choose to ignore it.
As a competitive employer, can you afford to ignore the menopause?
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