Against the backdrop of an ageing UK workforce, Nano Electronic Services encourages businesses to create menopause friendly working environments
Menopause like menstruation, sex and mental health are still taboo subjects. Maybe because people are embarrassed. Maybe because they were shown during childhood that these subjects were secretive, something that was whispered about. Maybe because we do not know enough about the subject. The way to change this is to start talking.
The workforce is ageing so more woman going through this stage in life are working and affected by the symptoms.
- 47 per cent of the global work force are women
- 66 per cent of women aged between 50 and 64 are in the workplace
- In the UK, the average age to start perimenopause is 51
- It is usually between 45 and 55
- Can be any time up to mid-60s
- Can be earlier
- Can start due to a medical treatment such as chemotherapy
There are over thirty physical and psychological symptoms
- Unlikely to experience all symptoms
- Some women may not notice any major changes
- Three in four women experience symptoms
- One in four serious
- One in four women consider leaving their workplace due to their symptoms
- One in ten women leave the workplace due to the impact
- Symptoms usually last between four to eight-years, sometimes longer
- Symptoms can be managed
Five major symptoms can be impacted by the workplace
- Hot flushes
- Focus and concentration
- Anxiety and worry
The menopause is not a specific protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 but if an employee or worker is put at a disadvantage and treated less favourably because of their menopause symptoms, this could be discrimination if related to a protected characteristic, for example: age, disability, gender reassignment and sex.
The number of tribunal cases citing menopause increased by 44 per cent in 2021. Menopause-related employment tribunal claims nearly doubled over the past year. Analysis of court records by Menopause Experts Group found that of those 23 cases cited the menopause in 2021. Of the 23 cases, 16 included claims for disability discrimination, 14 included claims for unfair dismissal and 10 included claims for sex discrimination. In addition, mentions of the word ‘menopause’ increased by 75 per cent in tribunal documents.
Disability discrimination in Donnachie v Telent Technology Services Ltd ET/13000005/20 an employment tribunal considered whether an employee’s menopause symptoms were substantial enough to amount to a disability.
Age discrimination in McCabe v Selazar ET/2200501/2021, an employment tribunal held that Selazar Ltd had subjected Mrs McCabe to age discrimination when it dismissed her at age 55.
Sex harassment in Best v Embark on Raw Ltd ET/3202006/2020, an employment tribunal held that an employer violated an employee’s dignity and created a humiliating environment for her at work.
Examples of reasonable adjustments
Hot flushes: Consider temperature and lighting to help women manage their body temperature. Make desk fans easily available. Consider uniforms or dress code.
Sleeping/tiredness/fatigue: Could start and finish times be adjusted. Informal arrangements or flexible working. Flexibility around breaks or increased breaks during the working day.
Heavy bleeding/flooding: Facilities for women to change clothes during the working day. Access to sanitary products.
Anxiety/panic attacks: Regular one-to-one discussions. Referral to counselling services.
What can be done to be more menopause friendly?
- Be clear how the organisation supports menopause at work?
- Create a culture where menopause can be discussed openly
- Provide training and support
- Review existing support
- Menopause friendly workwear
- Menopause friendly workplace
Supporting menopause at work is the right thing to do for organisations and colleagues. It helps retain talent within an organisation and creates an inclusive, supportive work environment. Colleagues’ wellbeing is placed centre stage, showing an organisation is a wonderful place to work, in turn changing lives for the better today and for generations to come.
Menopause affects people differently and for those who experience symptoms, it can be a huge relief to know their employer will support them. Although things are improving, stigma still exists around menopause. What employers can do is what one would expect of any employer who wants to attract and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce. This starts with creating the environment to talk about menopause openly and without embarrassment.