Menopause and menstruation at work guidance launched

A new standard for businesses on menstruation, menstrual health and menopause in the workplace has been published by the UK’s national standards body, The British Standard Institution (BSI).

The free standard offers guidance to workplaces on how to accommodate and support employees experiencing menstruation, perimenopause and menopause. 

It was developed with input from large businesses, government health bodies, charities and public consultation. 

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Anne Hayes, director of sectors at the BSI said the guidance will help employers support and retain female employees. 

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Working practices have changed and we now live in a time where more women are having long and successful careers.  

“At the same time, some employees and stakeholders are becoming more aware of the importance of wellbeing at work.  

“Developing workplaces in which menopause and menstruation are destigmatised and supported can enable organisations to better retain workers that experience severe symptoms and who might otherwise have considered leaving the workforce.”  

Research from gender equality charity the Fawcett Society found 10% of women experiencing menopause have left the workforce due to their symptoms rising to 25% for those with more severe symptoms. 

Symptoms can include hot flushes, dizziness, insomnia, muscle and joint stiffness. 

Hayes said the first step employers should take to support staff going through menopause is to break down the taboo around it. 

She added: “A business can start by considering the existing workplace culture to determine whether there is a general awareness of menstruation and menopause, and whether employees are given appropriate opportunities for open conversation or to request support.  

“In workplace cultures where menstrual health is openly discussed and employees and organisations work collaboratively to identify appropriate support or adjustments, employees perform at their best.” 

The BSI guidelines ask businesses to consider whether there is a general awareness of menstruation and menopause, and whether employees are given opportunities for open conversations or to request support in the workplace. 

It also gives guidance on training for line managers and how to create a comfortable environment for employees who are menstruating or going through menopause. 

Other topics covered include considering menstrual health in relevant policies like sickness absence and flexible working. 

Katherine Grice, co-founder of women’s business coaching company Topbird, said she is pleased menstrual health is being recognised as a priority.  

However, she emphasised the need for flexibility in women’s health policies.  

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Every woman’s menopause symptoms are different; as a company, you cannot create a one-size-fits-all support package. 

Flexible working is an important element here. The push to get workers back into the office is a significant risk to women feeling able to manage their work while they’re in the midst of menopausal symptoms.” 

Grice also said business leaders need to set an example of inclusivity, regardless of their gender. 

She said: “Good culture starts from the top. There is often an assumption that men in management positions won’t understand these issues. However, many men will likely have witnessed the impact of the menopause on women in their lives.  

“This means across all leadership positions, there is a shared responsibility to promote a positive, inclusive working environment where menopause and other women’s health issues can be openly discussed and managed.”