One million women could quit due to lack of menopause support, research warns

Businesses urged to create a more open culture as poll finds three-quarters of menopausal women feel unable to discuss the issue with colleagues

More than a million women with menopausal symptoms are under pressure to quit their jobs because they are not getting the support they need, a survey has found.

A poll of 2,000 women currently experiencing menopause or premenopausal symptoms across the UK, comissioned by Koru Kids, found 18 per cent were looking to leave their jobs because of their symptoms.

Koru Kids estimates there are at least 5.87 million women of menopausal or premenopausal age currently working in the UK – extrapolated from data from the Office for National Statistics – meaning that at least 1,057,000 woman could be looking to quit because of their symptoms.

This estimate is similar to an earlier estimate made by BUPA before the pandemic, which said almost a million women had left their job because of menopausal symptoms.

The poll, conducted by Research Without Barriers, also looked at the reasons women with menopausal symptoms were looking to leave their jobs.

The most common reason was the pressures put on them (42 per cent); followed by a failure to receive the flexible working they need to manage their symptoms (39 per cent; and a lack of understanding from management of what they are experiencing (39 per cent).

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The research also found that seven in 10 women who took time off as a result of their symptoms (70 per cent) did not tell their employer the real reason why, while nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of women experiencing menopause said they did not feel able to talk openly about their symptoms with colleagues.

Similarly, a quarter (24 per cent) of women experiencing menopause symptoms reported they were unhappy in their jobs because of a lack of support, with nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) saying that their place of work has not introduced any kind of policy to make things easier for anyone experiencing menopause symptoms.

Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of The Fawcett Society, said it was “genuinely shocking that so many women could be lost from the workforce simply because of stigma around menopause and a lack of understanding from employers”.

She said that menopause needed to be a part of inclusion and diversity work and employers had an important role to play.

However, Deborah Garlick, director of Henpicked, was unsurprised. As the focus on menopause at work increases, she highlighted that “more and more people are asking what their employers are doing”.

To address employees’ concerns, she suggested HR focus on policies, guidance documents, education and training to “create an open culture around menopause where everyone understands how to provide the right support”.

The need for an open culture was echoed by Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser for employment relations at the CIPD, who said it was important that employers recognise that menopause symptoms can be severe and seriously impact on people’s interaction with work. 

“Despite progress in many workplaces, too many women continue to suffer in silence,” she explained, adding that line managers should be appropriately trained in good people management as they can be key to someone getting the right support. 

She also said that, by listening to people’s concerns, managers can ensure people will have access to the support they need, such as flexible working or bespoke workplace adjustments depending on the needs of the individual.

The research from Koru Kids comes ahead of a session in the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee which will hear evidence on Wednesday afternoon regarding how the law protects women in the workplace who are experiencing menopause symptoms.

Martin Williams, partner and head of employment at Mayo Wynne Baxter, said that while current legislation could be used to help menopausal women, something more specific is required.

“Fresh legislation will highlight a subject that needs to be addressed seriously and help provide a mind shift in the workplace,” he told People Management, adding “if the menopause happened to men, I would wager the issue would have been fully addressed before now”.

For more information on supporting employees with menopausal symptoms, read the CIPD and BUPA’s guide for line managers.