More than 600 employers pledge to better support menopausal staff

But experts warn firms must ensure a culture where open conversations are actively encouraged and not simply write another policy

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AstraZeneca, the BBC, Royal Mail, Co-op, and TSB are just some of 600 employers who have signed a pledge to take practical steps to support staff going through the menopause.

Employers that have signed up to the Menopause Workplace Pledge, part of a campaign by Wellbeing of Women, have agreed to recognise the menopause as a workplace issue, to talk openly about the menopause and actively support employees affected by the menopause.

The charity says signatories have already taken a number of measures, including running awareness campaigns, updating uniforms and offering menopause-specific healthcare provisions.

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Royal Mail, which is the latest company to sign the pledge, launched a range of initiatives including new menopause training and an internal campaign to normalise conversations about the menopause.

Meanwhile, Tesco is planning to change its uniform to incorporate a breathable fabric to help with hot flushes, and News UK has said it will cover the cost of NHS HRT prescriptions and provide desk fans.

“For the first time in history, women are likely to be menopausal or post-menopausal for a longer period of time than they were reproductive,” said Professor Dame Lesley Regan, chair of Wellbeing of Women, explaining that nearly five million women aged 50-64 were currently in employment in the UK, representing the fastest growing demographic in the workplace. 

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This means employers can play a key role in helping women manage their health and wellbeing and, as a result, can help to “ensure a gender-equal working environment, support women to reach their potential and benefit from the enormous expertise and experience that they contribute,” she said.

Commenting on the announcement, Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser for employment relations for the CIPD, said it is positive to see employers engaging with the pledge. But, she said, organisations had more to do to create an inclusive workplace.

“It’s not enough to simply have a policy which outlines support that’s available: this must also be underpinned by a culture where people are actively encouraged to have open and supportive conversations,” she explained. 

Suff also said that firms should ensure line managers were trained to have sensitive conversations with individuals about the kind of workplace adjustments that could help individuals manage the impact of their symptoms at work.

Deborah Garlick, CEO of Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace, added that organisations needed to take the time to make sure they were taking the approach that was right for their workforce. “It’s important to appreciate that all organisations are different, from the roles to existing practices,” she explained, adding that listening to employees’ needs and making it clear that discussing the importance of the menopause was key.

While it is great to see firms make the pledge, Garlick added: “To achieve long-term sustainable cultural change, we need to see all employers taking positive action to put the right awareness, education and support in place.” 

Wellbeing of Women warned that around a quarter of menopausal women may consider leaving work due to symptoms, such as hot flushes, sleep problems, low mood and poor concentration.

In addition, last week, a survey revealed that almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of firms do not have a menopause policy and 77 per cent do 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.)

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.