Majority of women with menopausal symptoms have negative experience at work, CIPD finds

Experts advocate a change in culture, support packages and government intervention

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Two thirds (67 per cent) of women with experience of menopausal symptoms say they have had a mostly negative impact on them at work, new research finds.

In the study of 2,185 women in employment aged 40-60, carried out by the CIPD in conjunction with YouGov, a quarter (27 per cent) of women in this age category who have experienced menopausal symptoms said the condition has had a negative impact on their career progression – an estimated 1.2 million people.

This percentage rises for women with a disability or long-term health problem – 36 per cent said menopause has had a negative impact on their career progression – and women who identify as having an ethnic minority background (38 per cent).

A majority of women who experience menopausal symptoms also feel less able to concentrate at work (79 per cent) and experience an increased amount of stress (68 per cent).

However, those who felt supported by their employer when experiencing symptoms generally reported feeling less pressure at work (55 per cent of those who felt unsupported felt an increase in pressure compared to 43 per cent of those who felt supported) and less stress (75 per cent against 68 per cent).

Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser for wellbeing and employee relations at the CIPD, said that with some women even leaving organisations as they go through menopause, employers needed to step up to retain this cohort of workers. “Everyone will experience menopause differently, so it’s about listening and offering support in ways that work for both the organisation and the employee,” she said.

“Line managers should be supported to have open and honest conversations about the support available and offering flexible working and other helpful adjustments will go a long way to empowering employees to manage their symptoms and workloads, without compromising their careers.”

In addition, the CIPD wants to see employers foster open cultures where discussions around menopause can take place, create frameworks of support backed by policies or guidance, ensure that absence management policies are flexible and educate and train line managers.

For Kate Palmer, HR director at Peninsula, the type of open culture advocated by the CIPD is crucial to identifying what might be needed in a support package. She said: “An open, inclusive environment where employees feel they can talk to their manager about how menopause is affecting them with no stigma or embarrassment attached is the first step. 

“These conversations should be used to identify a well-rounded support package, from arranging informal regular check-ins to fulfilling the legal requirement to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.”

Palmer added that support should be individualised, adjusted and involve employers changing how they view menopausal employees. “It is necessary to speak of menopause within the scope of reasonable adjustments and other protections offered by discrimination laws because menopause has been declared by [some] employment tribunals to be a disability,” she said.

Calling for an evolution in how menopausal women are viewed, Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said that to harness the skills, experience and talents of menopausal women government-led change was needed to require businesses to have menopause action plans, make flexible work the default and help GPs diagnose menopause earlier.

She added: “Menopausal women are experiencing unnecessary misery and it’s a national scandal. From waiting too long for the right care, to uniforms that cause unnecessary discomfort  – women are being badly let down.”