Three in five (60 per cent) FTSE 100 companies have failed to publish menopause policies, according to new research.
The study, by INvolve, highlights that workplaces still have a long way to go in their support of women at work – particularly as they age – with the negative impact of this dearth in help hitting both employers and their employees.
According to recent research by the British Menopause Society, 10 per cent of women leave work as a result of menopause, while Health & Her stats revealed 15 per cent of women have called in sick because of menopausal symptoms. In addition, another OnePoll study found that 6 per cent of women have skipped work meetings to deal with their menopausal symptoms.
In fact, Censuswide and ONS data showed that perimenopause and menopause are costing UK businesses 14 million working days per year, equating to £1.8bn in lost productivity.
While a cross-party group of MPs recently called on the government to mandate employers to provide reasonable adjustments for employees going through menopause, Suki Sandhu, founder and CEO of INvolve, said more needs to be done to push the menopause agenda forward. “If companies are serious about the inclusion of women, particularly in senior leadership roles, menopause support simply can’t be overlooked any longer,” he said “The fact is women who are supported at work stay at work.
“That nearly two-thirds of FTSE 100 companies have not put policies in place and made them public is not good enough. It does also beg the question – if the level of support in some of the biggest corporations is this poor, what does the support look like in smaller companies across the UK?”
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With reporting into, and official inquiry on, menopause-related workplace discrimination improving – a 2019 survey from the CIPD found that three in five menopausal women, usually aged between 45 and 55, were negatively affected at work because of menopause symptoms – there was increased insight into what a lack of menopause policy can mean for businesses.
A 2021 parliamentary inquiry into menopause and the workplace found that lack of support around menopause means women were often leaving employment at the peak of their experience, impacting productivity and senior leadership diversity while also exacerbating the gender pay gap.
To forestall these negative outcomes, Danielle Harmer, chief people officer at Aviva, said all organisations should start to break the taboos around menopause and start to reshape how it is viewed within the business: “Every organisation can help break the taboo around menopause. It’s not just an issue for women – it impacts everyone.
“Find role models – not just women – to share stories. Create spaces for people to share experiences and support each other. Partner with an organisation that specialises in menopause support. And finally, educate leaders. What businesses do doesn’t have to cost the earth. The most important thing is open, stigma-free communications and caring, pragmatic support.”
For HR teams looking to improve menopause support at their organisation, Liz Sebag-Montefiore, director and co-founder of 10Eighty, explained that a starting point of clarity and research was key, adding that this might take time to make a change and “being realistic is key, especially if your organisation has not considered it before”.
When crafting menopause policy and workplace actions, Laura Mahoney, HR business partner at Browne Jacobson, added that a checklist approach was a good place to start, and needed to take into account an understanding of what menopause is, who it affects, what support is needed and what external support exists. She added: “Make sure there is senior leadership buy-in and assign a sponsor to the work you want to do on the topic and ensure men are also engaged and help work towards building awareness, understanding and how they can positively influence change.
“Business should also consider and agree on appropriate adjustments you can offer to support menopausal employees, such as the provision of USB fans and access to cold drinking water. You can also set up a menopause community group; at Brown Jacobson we have a group that is set up in a private Teams chat.”
Gosia Bowling, national lead for emotional wellbeing at Nuffield Health, said organisations needed to remember that employees can bring a claim for menopause-related discrimination under one of the existing Equality Act protected characteristics. “Although these current legal limitations have resulted in employment tribunal decisions being mixed, responsible businesses should introduce a menopause policy and workplace adjustments to protect their employees from feeling discrimination,” she said.