Menopause is forcing women to retire early, government adviser warns

Experts say this has ‘dramatic effect’ on workers’ pensions and call on employers to better support those experiencing symptoms

Women who are forced to exit the workforce early because of menopausal symptoms could be missing out on important pensions earnings later down the line, a government adviser has said.

Andy Briggs, the government’s business champion for older workers, told The Mail on Sunday: “To leave the workplace in your fifties – when we know that you’re far less likely than someone younger to return to work – has a huge impact on your retirement income.”

He added that nearly 4 million women in employment in the UK are aged between 45 and 55, highlighting that “women aged over 50 are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce”.

Briggs’ comments follow the publication of a report by the 50Plus Choices Employer Taskforce of business groups at the end of November, which found a quarter (25 per cent) of women consider giving up work as a result of menopause symptoms. 

It also found that almost a million women have left the workplace because of menopausal symptoms, with nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of women who have been unwell as a result of the menopause leaving their jobs. 

Commenting on Briggs’ statement, Deborah Garlick, director of Henpicked, said that because the dramatic effect of leaving work during the menopause has on retirement is potentially only seen 20 years later, it is “less likely to be considered by employers”. 

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She explained that the amount of state pension received depends on the number of years worked, warning that “the longer you leave it to top up your pension to fill a contribution gap, the costlier it is to get back to what you would have had, which, for some, may not even be possible”.

However, she told People Management: “One in five employers in the UK are now taking menopause seriously” and providing policies, guidance, and training as well as access to medical resources and workplace adjustments. 

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, director of the Women’s Budget Group, added that reduced pension due to menopausal symptoms, combined with caring responsibilities taken on by many women’s throughout their working lives, can create a “cumulative and devastating” impact on pensions. “It is encouraging to see this report acknowledge the impact of menopause on earnings and pensions,” she said.

Stephenson suggested increased flexible working is one way that employers can support female staff to manage their menopause symptoms. Not only would these arrangements help women going through the menopause work, limiting the impact on their pensions, but “it would also help employers retain vital skills and experience at a time when many businesses are seeing a shortage of both,” she said.

The need for flexible working was also echoed by Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, who said managers and HR teams could make simple adjustments to working arrangements, including the introduction of regular comfort breaks or a later start time to help those whose sleep patterns are being disturbed.

"Line managers should be treating the menopause like any other health condition and have open, supportive conversations about it,” she explained, adding that it will help women to feel much more comfortable about asking for support should they need it. 

She also suggested that organisations consider a specific menopause policy, guidance or a framework which can help to make the organisation’s support for those experiencing menopause transition clear and facilitate more open conversations about the menopause across the whole workforce.