Third of employees experiencing the menopause hide symptoms at work, research finds

Training line managers is central to ending the stigma, experts say, adding there is still a ‘long way to go’ until the condition is treated like any other health issue

Third of employees experiencing the menopause hide symptoms at work, research finds

A third (33 per cent) of people experiencing the menopause hide their symptoms at work, new research has found, reigniting concerns that employers aren’t doing enough to ensure adequate support and training is in place to combat the stigma workers face.

In an international survey of 5,012 employees who had gone through the menopause and were in work at some point during it, conducted by Vodafone, 33 per cent said they hid symptoms and nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) said it had impacted them at work.

Half of those surveyed (50 per cent) said they felt there was a stigma around talking about the menopause, with 43 per cent of those in the UK who experienced menopause symptoms feeling too embarrassed to ask for support in the workplace. This increased to 63 per cent among those under the age of 45.

Separate research has found that while the average age of the menopause in the UK is 51, around one in 100 women, trans men and non-binary people undergo the menopause before the age of 40.

In all, two-thirds of respondents (64 per cent) said there should be more workplace support in place.

Leanne Wood, Vodafone’s chief HR officer, said: “With menopause impacting women for a significant period of their working life, it’s important to us that our environment supports and normalises these life stages by openly talking about and supporting menopause in the workplace.”

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Wood estimated that around 15 per cent of the firm’s 100,000 employees would currently be experiencing the menopause, also announcing a company-wide commitment and awareness training.

The research polled people in the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and South Africa between 23 February and 4 March 2021.

Vodafone’s findings squared with previous findings by the CIPD that the majority of workers experiencing menopause symptoms felt it had a negative impact on their work; 30 per cent of working women aged 45-55 reported being unable to go to work at some point because of their symptoms; and three-quarters of those who were absent from work felt unable to tell their manager the real reason for their absence.

With women over the age of 45 the fastest-growing employee group in the labour market, adequate support for those experiencing the menopause is “an increasingly important issue”, said Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion adviser at the CIPD.

McCartney added that Vodafone’s research highlighted how there is still a long way to go until the menopause is treated like any other health condition at work, something “particularly disappointing given that most organisations are likely to have someone experiencing the menopause right now.”

"Employers need to educate and train line managers to have sensitive conversations with women about their symptoms, and any adjustments that might be needed,” she said. “They also need to create a culture that allows women to feel comfortable disclosing if they want to, which will enable them to get the support they need.

"While some women may find that working from home helps them to better manage their symptoms, further adjustments may still be needed. Some women will also be in jobs that don't allow them to work from home."