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NHS England encourages employers to adopt its menopause guidance

NHS England has launched new, transferable guidance to help women through menopause at work.

Announced by Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, in an article for The Telegraph the new guidance has been specifically designed so that it can be applied to different workplaces, and recommends offering flexible working to help people manage their symptoms.

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Kat Parsons, head of diversity, inclusion and belonging at facility services provider ISS UK & I, which already has a menopause policy in place, welcomed the move.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “The symptoms of menopause can be crippling and, without the correct support from employers, those suffering often feel that they are unable to continue at work. So, it’s fantastic to see that NHS England has taken the positive step of enabling employees impacted by the menopause to work flexibly.”

Research from employee experience platform Circle In in 2021 found nearly half (45%) of working women with menopause consider retiring or taking a break from work due to their symptoms, highlighting a need for better employer support.

Due to the impact menopause has on many working lives, the UK government’s cross-party Women and Equalities Committee has also called for menopause to be included as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.

Martin Williams, head of employment and partner at law firm Mayo Wynne Baxter, said stricter legislation may be needed to help the guidance take off on nationally, and to fully tackle the taboo.

He said: “If this new NHS England guidance does prove to be transferable to other workplaces, the impact could be exponential.

“While voluntary schemes are most welcome, regulatory change needs to happen to put all women on an equal footing. Unfortunately, we are still a long way off.

“The imperative for regulatory change will grow as the subject of menstruation and menopause becomes less taboo, which requires an attitudinal shift in society.”

The guidance includes a comprehensive overview of menopause terminology, how symptoms impact work and advice on support organisations can provide including a line manger checklist; how to record menopause related absence and a framework for a wellbeing action plan.

It also includes specific advice on menopause in transgender, non-binary and intersex colleagues.

Parson added: “It’s great to see that the guidance includes transgender, non-binary and intersex employees who may not wish to divulge their menopausal symptoms due to disclosing their status.

“I hope to see other employers follow suit as we work to build a workplace that is inclusive of all generations.”

NHS England’s full guidance on menopause at work can be viewed here.