Quarter of women with serious menopause symptoms have left jobs, study finds

Research published to mark World Menopause Day also reveals lack of employer support despite almost all organisations recognising that symptoms can impact work

Almost a quarter of women are leaving their jobs because of the menopause, according to new research, as organisations share data for World Menopause Day (18 October) about how serious symptoms affect employees.

A survey of 2,000 employees and 500 business owners by Benenden Health found 23 per cent of women who have been unwell as a result of the menopause have left jobs, despite the fact that nearly all businesses polled (95 per cent) recognised that symptoms negatively impact work.

The poll also found that, of the individuals who have suffered ill-health as a result of the menopause, almost one in five (18 per cent) said they were not given a pay rise or promotion and 13 per cent said they had to go through a disciplinary procedure.

Just one in five (19 per cent) of all employees polled were aware of available support at work for when they suffer ill-health as a result of the menopause.

Deborah Garlick, director of Henpicked, said that there had been some progress in supporting working women through the menopause, explaining that five years ago, her organisation was unable to find an employer with a menopause policy or support.  

But, she said: “Every day we talk to those who are putting career ambitions on hold or leaving work altogether,” adding that she is looking forward to the day employers without menopause support were the exception.

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The Benenden Health survey also looked at the needs of employees going through the menopause.

It found that nearly a third (31 per cent) of those experiencing the menopause said they would value flexible hours; 29 per cent said they would like the opportunity to talk about it; and more than a quarter (27 per cent) said they wanted to be offered mental health support.

Additionally, a quarter (25 per cent) of those polled also said they wanted to be offered time off, while a similar proportion wanted changes to the temperature and ventilation in the workplace (23 per cent) and increased refreshment breaks (22 per cent). One in five (19 per cent) called for a private area to be made in the office.

Naomi Thompson, head of organisational development at Benenden Health, agreed that it was “extremely disappointing to see that so many people [were] finding their working lives affected to the point of facing disciplinary action, stalled career progression and even leaving their jobs.

“Often the support required within the workplace is not too complex or expensive,” she advised. “Opening up channels of communication and taking steps to support employees can have a hugely positive impact on both individual wellbeing and overall business performance.”

A separate poll of 3,800 women, released at the end of last week, carried out for menopause expert Dr Louise Newson revealed that the majority (99 per cent) of women felt their perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms led to a negative impact on their careers.

The research found that nearly three in five (59 per cent) of women had taken time off work because of symptoms, and 18 per cent were off for more than eight weeks.

When asked their reasons for taking time off, nearly half (45 per cent) said reduced efficiency; a quarter (26 per cent) said poor quality of work; and 7 per cent said poor concentration.

The report also found that three in five (60 per cent) of women said their workplace offered no menopause support.

The Fawcett Society, with Standard Chartered Bank and the Financial Services Skills Commission, also conducted a poll of 2,400 people in the UK financial services sector at all levels, which revealed that a quarter (25 per cent) of employees currently experiencing the menopause said their experience has made them more likely to leave the workforce before retirement.

In addition, just one in five (22 per cent) of women and trans men currently experiencing the menopause said they disclose their menopause status at work.

When asked why they chose not to disclose, the highest proportion (46 per cent) said they were worried they would be perceived negatively, while 41 per cent were worried their abilities would be questioned.

Andrew Bazeley, policy and public affairs manager at the Fawcett Society, said that women had told the organisation that “the menopause is where mental health was five years ago” and employers have a role to play in breaking down the stigma.

He suggested this could be done through integrating menopause into diversity and inclusion efforts and added, “senior leaders can send an important message that this is not a taboo subject simply by talking about it themselves”.