How can we create menopause-friendly workplaces? Rachel Suff, CIPD
Too many women experiencing the menopause suffer in silence at work and feel unable to seek the support that could transform their working life. The reluctance felt by many women to discuss menopausal symptoms is understandable, but the menopause transition need not be an awkward topic and there should be no need for women to feel isolated and scared to broach the subject.
The menopause is a natural stage of life experienced by most women, and organsiations need to normalise the conversation so that people can discuss it without fear and without embarrassment. At the CIPD (the professional body for HR and people development), we’re aiming to break down the silence and provide the practical advice needed to create menopause-friendly workplaces. That is why we’ve published a variety of menopause resources, including guidance for people professionals and accompanying guide for people managers.
Normalise the conversation
It’s important that women experiencing the menopause feel properly supported and included in their working environments and that there is an open culture when it comes to discussing the menopause. Employers need to promote awareness of the symptoms associated with menopause transition across their workforce and encourage open conversations about this natural life stage. Information and education about the menopause should be included as part of the organisation’s diversity and inclusion training for the whole workforce, and integrated into its induction programme for new starters.
Encouraging peer-to-peer discussions will help to grow genuine conversations about the menopause and enable women to share experiences of managing the day-to-day impact of their symptoms, which in turn will help to create more openness and understanding in the workplace.
The organisations featured in our guidance help to open up the conversation about the menopause in number of ways, for example by holding employee focus groups to talk to people about their experiences and set up support groups and buddies for those experiencing the menopause at work. Some employers use health and well-being days to promote information and advice on the menopause. They also ensure that they are engaging with men on the issue and have senior level support.
Provide training and support for managers
A people manager will typically be the first point of contact if someone needs to discuss their health concerns or needs a change to their work or working hours because they are experiencing menopausal symptoms. It’s therefore really important that employers ensure that all managers are trained and have a broad understanding of how menopausal symptoms can affect employees’ interaction with work. They also need to be knowledgeable about what adjustments may be helpful to support women who are experiencing particular symptoms.
It’s also key that managers have the knowledge and confidence to not shy away from personal and potentially sensitive issues and feel comfortable talking to employees about the menopause and the support they may need at work.
Provide the right support for the individual
Organisations should treat an employee with menopause symptoms in the same way they would manage and support someone with any long-term health condition. Information about the menopause transition and the support available for female employees experiencing it should be woven through all of the organisation’s health and sickness absence related policies. The aim is for the organisation to understand the barriers the employee is experiencing because of their menopausal symptoms, and put adjustments in place to resolve them.
One woman’s experience of the menopause transition can be entirely different to another’s, and so employers need to provide the right support based on the individual’s particular needs. It’s very important, therefore, that a manager involves the employee in discussions about the potential adjustments that could help to mitigate the impact that any menopausal symptoms are having at work. Effective adjustments can be simple, low cost and make a big difference to how well someone with symptoms can carry on performing to the best of their ability. There is no reason why any woman should need to press pause on their working life because they are going through the menopause.
Senior Employment relations Adviser, CIPD
Rachel is a qualified HR professional and researcher and leads on health and well-being in the public policy team. She has led on a number of recent research reports in this space, including the CIPD’s annual health and well-being survey and joint mental health guidance with Mind. She also represents the CIPD on several external health-related advisory groups. Rachel talked to a wide range of experts, academics and CIPD members to help inform the menopause at work guidance and learnt a lot from the experience – not only about the menopause but how working lives can be transformed when people and organisations act on this issue.