March 26, 2019
The majority of working women experiencing the menopause say it has a negative impact on them at work, finds a new survey from the CIPD. The research found that three out of five (59 percent) working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms were finding it impacted them at work. In response, the CIPD has launched free guidance on managing the menopause at work to help break the silence surrounding the topic.
It emphasises that even small changes like having a fan or access to flexible working can make a big difference to how women manage their symptoms and thrive in their jobs. Women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing group in the workforce and the average age for the menopause transition is 51. As more women go through the menopause during their working lives, it’s vital that employers encourage open discussions to ensure they get the right support.
The menopause transition can include a range of symptoms which, on average, last for four years
The menopause transition can include a range of symptoms which, on average, last for four years. The CIPD’s research surveyed 1,409 women experiencing menopause symptoms and was led by YouGov. Of those who were affected negatively at work, they reported the following issues:
- Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) said they were less able to concentrate
- More than half (58 percent) said they experience more stress
- More than half (52 percent) said they felt less patient with clients and colleagues.
- Nearly a third of women surveyed (30 percent) said they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms, but only a quarter of them felt able to tell their manager the real reason for their absence.
- Privacy (45 percent) was the number one consideration for women choosing not to disclose. A third (34 percent) said embarrassment prevented them from saying why they had to take time off and another 32 percent said an unsupportive manager was the reason.
The need for better support is further highlighted by the fact that more women say they feel supported by their colleagues (48 percent) when going through the menopause than by their managers (32 percent).
Breaking the stigma
To break the stigma associated with the menopause, the CIPD is recommending that employers educate and train line managers so they are knowledgeable and confident to have sensitive conversations with staff about their symptoms and any adjustments that might be needed.
Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser for the CIPD, said: “It’s likely that nearly every workplace in the UK has someone experiencing the menopause right now but many managers are in the dark on how best to support them. Rather than it being a workplace taboo, line managers should be ready to treat the menopause like any other health condition and have open, supportive conversations with women in their teams.
“Our guidance shows that if employers create a culture where everyone can talk openly about health issues, such as the menopause, women are much more likely to feel confident about asking for the support they need to be effective in their role. Mangers also need to work closely with their HR teams to understand what simple, practical adjustments can be made to help women feel more comfortable and able to manage their work.”
A woman can spend around a fifth of her career managing her menopause, with over a third of it spent as a post-menopausal woman
According to Kate Usher, a menopause and positive ageing coach with Second Phase; “this research is welcomed in helping break down the taboo of recognising, talking about and planning for the menopause. It’s quite incredible that we have come this far and yet are only now starting to acknowledge its seriousness. A woman can spend around a fifth of her career managing her menopause, with over a third of it spent as a post-menopausal woman.
“It affects every woman in an entirely unique way, and can impact everyone around them – family, friends and work colleagues. It is therefore not just ‘a woman’s issue’. For organisations, there is nothing else in the Wellbeing arena which affects such a consistently large percentage of the workforce over such a long period of time. It needs a structured programme of awareness, training in handling the sensitive conversations required, together with individual coaching. A woman’s post-menopausal life is a significant opportunity and one that needs to be considered and planned for.”
The good news according to the CIPD is that there are a number of simple steps that employers can take that will make a huge difference to individuals. The CIPD is recommending that these should be outlined in specific guidance which makes clear to both managers and employees what support is available to manage the menopause at work.
The most common symptoms reported by women in the CIPD’s survey are hot flushes (72 percent), sleep disturbances (64 percent) and night sweats (58 percent). Psychological issues (56 percent), such as mood swings, anxiety and memory loss, were also widely reported.
To support women experiencing these symptoms, the CIPD’s guide suggests:
- Giving women a later start time if their sleep pattern is disturbed.
- Providing a desk fan to help with hot flushes
- Making sure women can take regular comfort breaks and allowing them to adapt their uniform to improve comfort levels