Nearly a third of women have missed work because of menopause symptoms, a parliamentary committee has said, calling for more support to be given to those going through this “normal life transition”.
Research released by the Women and Equalities Committee (WEC), which polled 2,161 women all experiencing at least one symptom of the menopause, found that 31 per cent had missed work because of their symptoms.
The same poll found that just one in 10 women (11 per cent) had asked for workplace adjustments related to their menopause symptoms, with a quarter (26 per cent) of those who said they had not asked for adjustments saying they were “worried about the reaction of others”.
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A fifth (19 per cent) of women who had not asked for adjustments also said they did not know who to speak to in order to request them.
The findings are part of the WEC’s ongoing inquiry into menopause in the workplace, which is looking at the extent of the discrimination menopausal people face in the workplace and what government and workplace policies can best support those going through menopause.
Caroline Nokes, Conservative MP and chair of the WEC, said that she was “saddened but not surprised” at the survey results.
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“Our survey shows us just how common symptoms which have an obvious impact in the workplace are, and how ashamed those experiencing them feel,” she said, noting that menopausal age women was the fastest-growing group in the workforce.
“There’s a legal, social and economic imperative to support working women through a normal life transition, so we can hold on to role models for the next generation,” she said.
But, Nokes added, solutions were in “easy reach” for most organisations. “Much of this is about practical adjustments for employees, and stamping out ‘boorish’ banter that menopause is a ‘women’s problem’ or a joke,” she said.
The survey found the most common adjustments requested by those going through the menopause were for flexible working and temperature control (43 per cent and 36 per cent respectively).
And while just over half (55 per cent) of those who did request adjustments found them to be useful, 30 per cent of those who requested adjustments did not receive any.
Commenting on the findings, Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser for employment relations at the CIPD, said that employers needed to “go beyond simply having a policy which outlines support that’s available” by “actively encouraging open and supportive conversations to be the norm”.
Appropriately training line managers in good people management was key to this, Suff added: “By being approachable and listening to people’s concerns, [line managers] can ensure people can access the support they need, such as flexible working or bespoke workplace adjustments depending on the needs of the individual.”
The WEC poll found that just 32 per cent and 29 per cent of the women polled said they felt supported by their colleagues and line managers respectively.
Clare-Louise Knox, business psychologist at See Her Thrive, said that it was “vital” the narrative around the menopause changed, suggesting employers provide managers with training to support affected employees, utilising “external partners” if they do not have the resources.
She also suggested that employers review their existing policies to include and provide support for menopause, menstrual and reproductive health issues, and provide employees with the opportunity to share their experiences with each other. “A monthly menopause cafe or virtual women’s health network” would be a good way to do this, Knox said.