Menopause in the Workplace

Awareness of the effects of menopause on staff is often poor, leading to problems with staffing and morale. Following a recent government report into managing the menopause in workplaces, we look at what you should know about a condition which affects 51% of the population.

Employers and employees are often unaware of menopause in the workplace, which can have significant consequences. The most obvious example of this is losing a highly skilled female workforce due to lack of support. Most women experience menopause symptoms between the ages of 45-55, with the menopause transition usually lasting about 7-14 years.

At present, there are 4.5 million women aged between 50-64 in the UK who are either in, or coming out, of the menopause transition. Peri-menopause, menopause, and post-menopause are the three stages of the menopause transition and at each stage, a woman may experience symptoms such as hot flushes, chills, sleep problems, and mood changes. These are just a few of the symptoms a woman may encounter, however all these symptoms can have a major impact on her personal and professional life.   

Call to change

The cross-party House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published a report in July urging and calling on the government to introduce several changes and actions in how menopause is managed in the workplace. The report found various key findings that contribute to women leaving the workforce which affects the gender pay gap, pension gap and leads to a lack of women in key leadership roles. The key findings are:

  • Lack of support and discrimination are two key factors as to why women leave the workplace.
  • Current laws do not provide enough protection to menopausal women.
  • GPs are not equipped to properly diagnose or provide treatment for menopausal women.
  • Many GPs are unaware that they can issue an interim paper prescription while waiting for the roll out of a digital prepayment certificate and while women wait for this, they are paying more than they should for dual prescriptions.

The recommendations that the Committee has made to the government are:

  • The Equality Act needs to be amended to introduce menopause as a protected characteristic, which will place an onus on the employer to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal women in the workplace.
  • The dual prescription charge for oestrogen and progesterone, which is part of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopausal women, is replaced with a single charge.
  • Appoint a menopause ambassador to develop policies and become a champion of promoting good practice who will collaborate with employers, unions and other stakeholders.
  • GPs should ensure that at least one member of clinical staff has received training around menopause and that there is a specialist menopause service or specialist service in every PCN by 2024.
  • The Royal College of General Practitioners must make training a mandatory aspect of continuing professional development requirements for GPs.
  • The dual prescription charge must be removed with the introduction of a single charge.

Changes employers can introduce now

Based on the recommendations made by the Committee, employers should act now instead of waiting for the government to agree to the recommendations made. This can be done by introducing reasonable adjustments in workplaces while having the view that menopause is a protected characteristic. Employers can make the following changes to support women:

  • The workplace should be a menopause-friendly and supportive environment. Introducing an open culture and providing training in the workplace will bring awareness and support to menopausal women, with at least one member of clinical staff receiving the training.
  • Carry out health and safety checks through risk assessments, including those who work from home, which includes assessing the risk at work and minimising, reducing and removing health and safety risks for staff.
  • Flexible working conditions, with consideration given to both the working place and hours of work.
  • Specific menopause policies and guidelines that introduce change and a review of sickness polices, which are most often rigid and force women out of the workplace.
  • Introduce a menopause champion who raise awareness and provide staff with information on how to get assistance.

Further Information

Menopause is a part of every woman’s life and 51% of the population in the UK will experience the transition. Introducing awareness and training can help retain top-skilled and talented females. Managers who are trained become more sensitive in one-to-one conversations which make staff feel valued, leading to reduced sickness absence and a possible reduction in staff turnover.

Training management on having difficult conversations is a starting point. Thornfields offer a workshop called Handling Difficult Conversations within the workplace, and training can provide management with the skills and ability to deal with difficult conversations involving menopause within the workforce. More information on this can be found here.

ACAS offer support and advice for employers who are dealing with menopausal staff who are experiencing symptoms, more information on this can be found here.

The full report published by the cross-party House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee can be found here with a summary of the report available here.


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