MPs and HR experts have urged employers and the government to increase awareness of the menopause as a workplace issue.
At an event in parliament this week, the CIPD launched its manifesto for the menopause at work, which outlined a number of adjustments organisations should consider to support workers experiencing symptoms.
It said businesses should give women going through the menopause the option of working from home, offer later start times for those who might be suffering from disrupted sleep patterns, and provide access to quiet spaces to help employees cope with stress and anxiety.
Speaking at the launch event, Claire McCartney, senior policy adviser at the CIPD, said that having conversations in the workplace was the first step to normalising the menopause. “The onus should be on the company to create open, inclusive culture,” she said, noting that most of the recommendations in the manifesto were relatively small, low-cost changes that could significantly improve conditions for working women.
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“It’s really important line managers are knowledgeable and aware of adjustments that can be made,” McCartney added.
Women over the age of 45 are the fastest growing employee group in the labour market, according to the CIPD, meaning adequate support for those experiencing the menopause is an increasingly important issue.
But according to a CIPD poll, the majority (59 per cent) of working women experiencing menopause symptoms said it had a negative impact on their work, and 30 per cent of working women aged 45-55 reported being unable to go to work at some point because of their symptoms. Three-quarters of those who were absent from work felt unable to tell their manager the real reason for their absence.
Speaking at this week’s event, Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea West, said: “We’re losing experienced and loyal members of staff because we’re not treating them with respect.” She added that reasonable workplace adjustments for staff experiencing menopause symptoms, such as access to comfort breaks or alterations to uniforms, did not constitute “special treatment”.
Rachel McLean, Conservative MP for Redditch, added that the “toxic taboos about ageism and sexism” needed to be addressed to make workplaces more accessible for women experiencing the menopause.
And Lynda Bailey, co-founder and director of consultancy Talking Menopause, called on organisations to take the menopause seriously. “Women [are] feeling alone and isolated in the workplace and unable to ask for help,” she said.
“We've got a lot of work to do – we want menopause on a par with maternity and paternity provision.”
The CIPD has called on the government to support an employer-led campaign to increase organisations’ focus on the menopause as an economic and diversity and inclusion issue.
Separately, to coincide with World Menopause Day today, Acas today launched new guidance to help employers support their staff through the menopause.
Acas advised employers to provide menopause awareness training for managers, in order to help them deal with menopause-related issues sensitively, and recommended adjustments such as offering employees alterations to working hours, and making desk fans available to those who need them.
"Menopause will impact many working women who may feel too embarrassed to raise symptoms that are having a detrimental impact on their work.” said Acas chief executive, Susan Clews. “This can result in affected staff taking time off work unnecessarily when some simple measures could help them continue to work comfortably.”
Acas’s guidance emphasised the importance of being aware of the risks of sex, disability or age discrimination connected to menopause issues.