How to manage the menopause at work

Investing in understanding the condition and promoting inclusivity will help employers hold on to their most experienced female talent, says Alaana Linney

In the UK, there are nine million women aged between 40 and 60 who could be experiencing some of the numerous symptoms of menopause or perimenopause. Three and a half million of them are over 50 and in the workplace. This demographic is typically at the top of their professional game, offering a wealth of experience and skills. 

Yet the reality is that roughly a quarter of these women are struggling to manage the physiological change their bodies are going through. These women will experience debilitating symptoms and, for some, it forces them out of the workplace completely.  Our most recent research found that almost one million women have left a job because of menopause symptoms, exposing UK businesses to the threat of losing their most experienced female talent.

For those women who don’t leave their career, there is still a risk to businesses of absenteeism. Many women have been forced to take long-term leave, with the average being 32 weeks, which obviously impacts on productivity.

Clearly, left ignored the menopause will cost employers in talent and profitability. It’s time to put the menopause on the top of the business agenda and address the taboo. Organisations that do so will create an advantage in attracting and retaining female talent.

Businesses are accountable and have a responsibility to act now. To increase accessibility to informed menopause care and support Bupa Health Clinics is investing in upskilling a fifth of its GP workforce, who also work under the NHS, through the British Menopause Society. Here are other ways employers can take action:

Inform and educate

Being informed and educated is critical in addressing the challenges that come with the menopause. As leaders, we don’t know enough. If we are to help women in the workplace during this stage of life, we need to invest in our own understanding and learning.

At Bupa Health Clinics, we want to encourage companies to understand the menopause. To do this we have created infographics and a health and safety risk assessment form for employers and employees to use.

Businesses that arm their female workforce with the right, authoritative advice and practical information will be taking the right first steps in helping them to feel included and supported.

Change the culture

We need to change the culture around female health in general, not just around the menopause. Women are physiologically different to men, and our different needs are not addressed in the workplace. Whether that’s offering breaks to menopausal women or flexible working arrangements during fertility, or simply having period products in the toilet.

Actions like this show a company is striving to become more inclusive, which can help in its talent retention. More women are in the workplace, and for longer with the retirement age getting later, so it’s in a business’s interest to support them, before they lose them. Connect with employees, offer the right resources and promote inclusivity.

Normalise the conversation

Symptoms of the menopause can be embarrassing, so it’s not really a surprise that it isn’t openly talked about in the workplace. The fact that we’re losing female talent because of it is nonsensical. These women are at a point where they can offer businesses experience and are possibly at, or reaching, the top of their career ladder.

It’s within our power, as leaders, to normalise the conversation around the menopause and, if we do, businesses will reap the benefits of being at the front-end of recruiting and retaining female talent. 

This isn’t about giving women special treatment, it’s about employers acting in a way that levels the playing field and changes perspectives so everybody can thrive. 

Alaana Linney is commercial director at Bupa Health Clinics