Most businesses do not have a strategy for employees experiencing the menopause, research has revealed.
A YouGov poll of 1,025 HR professionals, commissioned by Irwin Mitchell, found that almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of firms did not have a menopause policy.
The survey also found that 77 per cent did not train line managers on the menopause, compared to just 16 per cent of businesses that did. (Another 7 per cent said they didn't know.)
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Among the firms that did not train line managers in dealing with menopause, 44 per cent said they had not thought about it; 15 per cent said they didn’t consider it a priority; and 7 per cent claimed that sensitivities and embarrassment about the issue were holding them back.
The research also revealed that only 18 per cent of HR professionals said their firms provided information about the menopause to their employees, with 13 per cent offering internal support groups.
Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of respondents said they did not consider menopause during performance reviews for female staff, while half (50 per cent) said they were confident women in their organisation felt able to talk about the menopause.
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Commenting on the data, Claire McCartney, senior policy adviser for resourcing and inclusion at the CIPD, said that there was still some way to go in supporting menopausal staff.
“Employers must focus on creating open and inclusive cultures where everyone feels able to talk about any issues that are affecting them,” she said, suggesting that firms could go beyond simply having policies outlining available support and actively encouraging open conversations.
“Ensuring line managers are knowledgeable about the menopause and trained in good people management can be key to someone getting the right support,” she added, explaining this could include flexible working or bespoke workplace adjustments.
Angela Watson, age project manager at Business in the Community, also said firms should embrace flexible working hours and allow for absences that arise from menopause-related sickness, warning that employers who are unprepared to support menopausal employees could risk losing them.
“As many offices return to a hybrid working model, some older workers are reconsidering whether it’s worth returning at all,” she explained. “If we want women to continue in the workplace and build secure financial futures for themselves in retirement, employers need to provide appropriate support.”
This was a sentiment shared by Deborah Garlick, CEO of Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace, who described the results of the survey as “shocking”. Comparing employers that were taking action on the menopause and those who weren’t, she said: “I know where I’d sooner work and employers can’t afford to lose talent from their businesses.”
She added that “every employer needs to take action quickly or be left behind”.
Firms are not just at risk of losing employees, cautioned Jenny Arrowsmith, employment law partner at Irwin Mitchell, who said that over the last two to three years there had been a rise in the number of employment tribunals where menopause was mentioned.
“We expect to see complaints increase further,” she said, particularly if additional legal protection were to be given to those who have significant menopausal symptoms: something the Women and Equalities Committee has previously discussed during its inquiry into menopause and the workplace.
To reduce the risk of “costly disputes”, Arrowsmith suggested that having a menopause policy could both help firms approach conversations and indicate what support is available, and provide employers with a framework for evidencing their response if they are challenged in a tribunal.