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Menopause at work: what's the employer's responsibility?

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Menopause is often seen as a taboo topic of conversation. This is not surprising given the personal nature of the symptoms and impact on the individual's personal life.

At last though there is evidence of more open and honest discussions about the menopause taking place.

From hair products specifically aimed at menopausal women; to musicals about women going through the menopause. As issues around the menopause get higher up the agenda, it is hoped that jokes about women going through this stage of life will become a thing of the past.


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What is the menopause?

Menopause typically affects women between the ages of 45-55. It is a normal and natural process in which women experience significant changes, both physically and emotionally. It can be a very confusing time for not only the women going through the menopause, but for their partners and families coping with the impact of these changes.

Statistics show that couples are now older when they get married, which consequently leads to marriage breakdowns occurring more frequently between the ages of 40-60 years old.

This often coincides with navigating issues arising from having teenage children. The symptoms of the menopause puts huge strains on women, which can have a lasting and frequently detrimental effect on marriages and family life.  

 

Employer’s responsibilities

With 51% of people in the workplace now being women, it is a responsibility of an employer to ensure the wellbeing of their staff.

There is no statutory legislation for discrimination directly relating to the menopause. To bring a menopause-related discrimination claim, an employee would have to go under the grounds of age, sex or disability and show that they have been treated less favourably because of their menopausal symptoms.

Any discrimination claims, including those related to the menopause, risk employers having to make substantial compensation payments, and will potentially tarnish their reputation in the marketplace.

 

What should employers do:

  1. Identify those employees who may experience menopausal symptoms. This will include women and transgender people.
  2. Be aware that there will be staff who are experiencing the impact of a partner going through the menopause.
  3. Provide opportunities for those affected by the menopause to be able to discuss the impact on them in a safe, caring and confidential way.
  4. Aim to reduce the stigma around the menopause and promote opportunities to prevent the menopause being a taboo topic for conversation.
  5. Provide opportunities to enable employees impacted by the menopause to take time off work without being criticised or discriminated against regarding future opportunities within the company.
  6. Work with the employee to enable them to rebuild any lack of self-confidence and self-esteem.
  7. Ensure all HR personnel and managers are trained on the symptoms of the menopause and the potential impact of the menopause on an employee’s partner, family members, work colleagues and friends.
  8. Keep up to date information on organisations that HR personnel can signpost employees to such as their GP, counsellors and therapists, support groups and solicitors where there has been an impact on a marriage or relationship.
  9. Make reasonable adjustments in the workplace which can be as simple as providing a fan, to enabling time off work to attend health appointments, as well as being flexible to offer working from home
  10. Have a robust menopause policy which contains the following matters:
  • The definition of the menopause;
  • What the common symptoms are;
  • How an employee can raise the issue of the menopause with HR and/or line manager;
  • How to access support practically and emotionally from the employer;
  • How to access external support, including medical support, and;
  • The responsibility of other employees to respect a person experiencing menopausal symptoms.

 

The benefits of to an employer

The benefit of having the right policies in place alongside well-trained HR personnel include:

  1. A reduction in the costs associated with the recruitment and training of new staff.
  2. A reduction in the costs and disruption of high levels of staff sickness absences.
  3. The improvement of relationships between the employer and employee making the workplace a positive place to be.
  4. Providing an environment and culture which has a positive and lasting impact on the member of staff’s relationships with partners, family members, friends and co-workers, which in turn can lead to more harmonious place to work, with reduced staff sickness absences and staff turnover.
  5. Staff feel confident that their employer takes their wellbeing and health seriously.

The benefit of having an employer who is committed to supporting their employees through the menopause should not be underestimated; the care and support given will have a significant and lasting impact on the employee, their family, friends and work colleagues.

 

Susan J Williams is partner and head of family, Ince (Cardiff)