When I first started experiencing peri-menopausal symptoms I was shocked by how little it was discussed by colleagues at work.

Despite there being over seven million women of menopausal age (40-60) in the UK workforce, I found very few people were prepared to talk about it in a professional environment. And it’s an important conversation to have, as many women find their professional lives significantly affected.

The symptoms are wide-ranging but often debilitating. Exhaustion from night sweats can make it hard to wake up and commute; perimenopause can trigger irregular periods that derail planned meetings; sleep loss can affect your concentration. Yet these symptoms can feel embarrassing to mention to a colleague or manager.

Sadly, menopause is not the only women’s health issue that can be challenging in the workplace. Six-in-10 (59%) women experience physical discomfort at work when on their period, according to our recent consumer survey, yet only a third (35%) say they would be comfortable discussing it with their line managers.

This mismatch highlights an endemic problem around women’s health in the workplace, affecting not only employee health and happiness, but inevitably productivity and business output.

Is the situation improving?

Workplaces are increasingly taking steps to better support women at work. This year’s CIPD and Simplyhealth Health and Wellbeing at Work report found that almost half of employers (46%) offer provision for those experiencing menopause this year, compared with just 30% in 2022. And over a third (35%) of employers said they encourage an open and supportive climate where employees are able to talk about menstrual health issues.

However, clearly there is more to be done. Simplyhealth’s recent survey finds that almost a quarter (23%) of women have considered quitting due to the impact of menopause or menstrual symptoms at work, and over one in ten (14%) are actively planning to quit.

With four-in-10 (40%) women feeling as though women’s health issues affect their productivity at work, it is clear that a wide-scale culture shift, including provision of appropriate medical support through health plans, is essential to keep women in the workforce.

And female employees would welcome change – the new survey finds a quarter (25%) of women would like allocated time for healthcare appointments and 31% would value flexible home working arrangements. Other evidence suggests temperature control, providing period products, and offering external health support can improve the workplace environment for women.

A culture change

Beyond practical changes to physical environments and in-office provisions, employers need to promote culture change by encouraging open conversations about wellbeing. These discussions don’t need to necessarily be workplace-wide, they can involve setting up support groups, or specialist training. Encouraging frequent informal chats will gradually remove the stigma around women’s health issues.

These conversations also need to come from the top, with managers and women on senior leadership teams setting an example. For instance, I find the word “hot flush” patronising, so I have rebranded these moments as “power surges”. By sharing this with others, as I have done at our office support group, I hope to help create a culture of support and empathy rather than dismissal and secrecy in the workplace.

It may well take time to achieve real change in supporting women across all work environments but it has to start somewhere. By taking advantage of workplace health support offers such as health plans, implementing practical changes and pushing for shifts in office culture through open conversation, employers will find themselves better able to support women employees and keep productivity high.


Claudia Nicholls is Chief Customer Officer at Simplyhealth.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.