Menopause and perimenopause are natural phases in a woman’s life, yet workplaces are “falling behind” in providing adequate support for those going through these transitions.
Recent findings reveal that a significant portion of the workforce, particularly women aged between 45 and 55, feel unsupported during this critical stage of their lives. This lack of support is causing some to consider leaving their jobs, according to a study.
Sarah Mayo, a renowned workplace mental health specialist and co-founder of POINT3 Wellbeing, expressed concern over these findings, stating, “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.”
Menopause typically occurs around the age of 51, while perimenopause, the transitional period leading up to menopause, can begin in a person’s late 30s or early 40s.
The symptoms associated with menopause and perimenopause, such as brain fog, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and memory loss, can create significant difficulties while managing workloads.
Only a minority receive training on menopause
Despite this, only 37 percent of managers have received training on menopause, according to a recent study. Furthermore, when employees approach their managers to discuss their menopausal symptoms, 25 percent of managers admitted to not knowing how to respond, and 16 percent believed the employees were making excuses for poor performance.
Sarah Mayo emphasises, “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.”
To address this urgent issue, Sarah Mayo outlines four key initiatives that managers can introduce to improve support for employees going through menopause, coinciding with World Menopause Day.
Seek to Understand
One of the simplest ways workplaces can support employees going through menopause is by fostering understanding and empathy. There is a significant overlap between menopause and mental health, with many symptoms being psychological or affecting cognition. Therefore, developing emotional intelligence skills, such as active listening, non-judgment, and compassion, can help employees feel seen, heard, and understood.
Educate and Upskill Managers
Managers play a pivotal role in employee well-being and should bridge the knowledge gap around peri and menopause to provide essential support. Investing in educating and upskilling managers is crucial to ensure they understand the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of menopause.
This knowledge empowers them to introduce strategies and awareness that foster supportive and inclusive workplace cultures where employees feel valued and understood.
Introduce Support Frameworks
Equipped with education and skills, managers can identify gaps in support for menopausal individuals and introduce comprehensive support frameworks. These may include sharing educational training with the broader team, promoting well-being and mental health awareness, offering access to dedicated support groups and resources, and providing specialised HR support with clear and confidential channels for employees to seek advice and assistance.
Consider Flexible and Fair Work Arrangements
The recent rejection of recommendations for menopause leave and protected status under the Equality Act highlights the pressing need for workplaces to address the challenges faced by menopausal women. Offering flexible and fair work arrangements, such as adjusted hours, remote work options, or part-time schedules, can be invaluable support, given the variability in symptoms’ intensity and duration. Managers can also implement phased return-to-work policies after absenteeism, with regular check-ins to support employees.
Sarah Mayo concludes, “Introducing effective initiatives, awareness, and education should become a key priority for workplaces. This not only signals a commitment to employees’ well-being and mental health but also represents a significant step forward in challenging stigmas and misconceptions around peri and menopause in the workplace.”
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 the 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.