MPs call for new campaign to tackle workplace menopause taboo

Parliamentary group urges businesses to drive change and improve policies, which experts say will benefit retention

Credit: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Ahead of World Menopause Day on 18 October, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Menopause inquiry has called for more workplace policies to help women’s health.

The APPG, which is currently lobbying for NHS-funded menopause health checks and for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) prescriptions to be made free in England in line with the rest of the UK, found that menopause in the workplace “attracted the most interest” during the inquiry.

The inquiry noted that “the majority of employers do not consider menopause a proper health condition and do not have policies in place to support staff going through it”, and called for businesses to drive change. 

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It follows a recent survey by the CIPD, which found that three in five (59 per cent) menopausal women were negatively affected at work, and that almost 900,000 women in the UK had left their jobs because of menopausal symptoms. 

Nicola Smith, director of innovation for flexible working experts Timewise, highlighted that “menopause symptoms can make work difficult and mean some women even end up leaving their jobs”.

She advised that organisations make sure good flexible working was widely available, for new and existing jobs, rather than waiting for people to ask. “Line managers need support on this too – anticipating flexible needs, reworking job design and managing flexible teams are all key skills that can’t be learnt through osmosis,” Smith said, adding that “with record numbers of older workers leaving the jobs market, it’s more important than ever that we get this right”.

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As a result, the APPG is calling on a government coordinated and employer-led campaign to raise awareness and help tackle the taboo. The inquiry suggested that the menopause should be treated as a “core employee health issue” and that the business case for investing in employee support should be promoted. It has also called for government guidance for employers on menopause at work policies.

Heather Jackson, co-founder of GenM, said it was “great to see the APPG report calling for more support in the workplace. This is incredibly important, but for lasting impact we need societal change as well.”

Jackson also said adding in ‘tickbox menopause policies’ to HR schemes would have a minimal effect, “but what really can change things is transforming the culture of an organisation so that menopause can be discussed openly and colleagues are given adequate support”.

Emphasing the reasons often making it harder for women over 50 to remain in employment, Carolyn Harris, chair of the APPG on Menopause, said the consequences for those suffering with menopause symptoms who cannot get the right treatment can be severe. “[The symptoms lead] to the breakdown of personal relationships and jeopardise careers, with women being forced to take additional days off or leave work altogether, putting their financial situations at risk,” said Harris.

The inquiry comes after swathes of big-name employers – such as Marks & Spencer, Asos and Citigroup – began introducing menopause policies, and follows the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee’s inquiry specifically on menopause discrimination in the workplace.