Menopause in the workplace: which businesses are supporting workers?

It has been estimated that there are around 13 million women who are currently peri or menopausal in the UK, which is about one third of the entire UK female population and according to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, almost 8 out of 10 of menopausal women are in work.

As society becomes more aware of the challenges faced by women going through menopause, it is imperative for businesses to know how to offer the proper support and accommodations to their employees. 

We explore the UK Government’s regulations surrounding menopause in the workplace, calling for employers to provide reasonable adjustments and specialised support for women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms and look at the businesses who are leading the way with their support for women.

Employment law 

Employees experiencing menopausal symptoms are protected under employment law and employers have a duty to create a workplace environment that supports women going through menopause. 

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to ensure the health and safety of their employees, including those experiencing menopausal symptoms. This may include assessing workplace temperature, providing access to cold drinking water and adequate facilities, and allowing for changes to workstations. 

Additionally, menopausal employees have rights under the Equality Act 2010, protecting them against workplace discrimination on the basis of age, gender, and disability. Symptoms arising from the menopause or peri-menopause could amount to a disability where the symptoms are long-term and have a substantial effect on the employee’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities. If an employee has a disability, then the law states that an employer must make reasonable adjustments to change or reduce the effect of the disability on the employee’s ability to do their job. These adjustments may include modified workloads or flexible working hours,, among other things. 

Raising Awareness

In order to provide the necessary support to women going through menopause, it is essential for businesses to raise awareness and educate employees and management about menopause. 

In November 2022, the NHS set a benchmark for standards of supporting workers through the menopause, with NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard calling on other employers to follow in its footsteps. 

As part of its guidance it suggested all organisations should have a menopause at work strategy. It said there should be clear commitment that menopause is a workplace issue from the organisation, and this should involve reviewing and developing any policies that are not in place, including working with trade unions.

Within these policies, it said line managers should have training in the signs and symptoms of menopause and how to manage, help and support their employees who may be experiencing difficulties. This should include effective use of wellness/sick leave policies.

Which companies are leading the way when it comes to menopause support  at work?

Over 2,000 employers have signed the menopause workplace pledge, a campaign from Wellbeing of Women, in collaboration with Hello! Magazine and Bupa to raise awareness of the menopause as a workplace issue.

Multinational drinks company Diageo, which owns brands like Guinness, Baileys, Smirnoff, and Captain Morgan, recently announced new menopause guidelines. The aim of the guidance is to raise awareness and understanding of the taboo subject of menopause, as well as provide resources to employees and line managers dealing with menopause, both directly and indirectly in their personal lives, it said.

As a result, employees will have access to counselling and mindfulness sessions as part of Diageo’s employee assistance programmes, as well as increased workplace flexibility around working hours and sick leave.

Royal Mail has launched a range of initiatives to further support the 16,500 members of its staff likely to be experiencing perimenopause and menopause symptoms. This includes new menopause training and an internal campaign to normalise conversations.

Meanwhile, Tesco, the largest private employer in the UK with 300,000 staff, has menopause guidance and training in place, and will change its uniform to incorporate a breathable fabric to help with hot flushes.

With understanding, awareness, and support, businesses can make the necessary changes to accommodate women going through this transitional period. Providing supportive resources and creating safe spaces will not only help individual employees, but also contribute to a more productive and supportive workplace culture overall. By embracing change and taking the appropriate measures, employers can ensure that their workplace exemplifies inclusivity and equality for all.

The future 

After examining the UK Government’s regulations surrounding menopause in the workplace and exploring some of the businesses taking the lead with their support for women, it’s clear that employers are starting to better understand the physical, mental and emotional challenges women going through menopause experience. By providing specialised support and reasonable adjustments to these women, employers can create a more comfortable and accommodating working environment for them. It is important for businesses to remain aware of these issues to ensure adequate support is provided, ultimately making sure that these women continue to achieve success within their careers. With more attention being drawn to this subject, we can only hope that other countries start following suit in providing necessary accommodations for women transitioning through peri or menopause.

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