Menopause at Work
This overview aims to help our organisation to understand the topic in greater depth by providing current thought in leadership and research. By highlighting the personal impact the menopause has on staff and students in the workplace and providing the right support, we can avoid losing essential staff through resignation or performance issues.
Even though many women, and some male, intersex and non-binary colleagues will experience the menopause, the majority during their working career and 25% with severe or life changing symptoms, the impact of menopause on an organisation and often on an individual’s wellbeing and career is a topic that remains taboo and shrouded in silence.
Currently women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing segment of the UK workforce and as 51 is the average age to go through the menopause (British Menopause Society) this equates to 1 in 8 women in work being of menopausal age, rising to an estimated 1 in 6 by 2022, 80% of whom will have symptoms.
Menopause can affect many things including mood, sleep, concentration and confidence. When these symptoms are misunderstood, they can be perceived as performance and attendance issues, leading to negative consequences such as staff or students who are experiencing symptoms avoiding or being overlooked for promotion, being put on performance plans and even leaving their jobs.
The Business Case
There is limited research into the impact of menopause on the workplace, probably due to the aforementioned taboo or stigma associated with the subject. Additionally, with only an estimated 5% of UK companies having a menopause at work policy, the lack of awareness, understanding and therefore tangible action, is very evident.
The financial impact of the menopause at work is hard to estimate due to the taboo surrounding the condition and staff or students not wanting to share the true reason for their absence. However, current estimations suggests 14 million working days are lost annually due to menopause symptoms. The fear of being negatively perceived, highlighting gender difference, or simply feeling uncomfortable to discuss openly with a manager, perpetuates the silence surrounding menopause.
When taken into consideration, the business case for an organisation is a straight forward one. To replace an employee costs between 115-200% of their wages. As 50% of any workforce are inevitably going to go through the menopause, employers need to be proactive. By openly supporting this group of employees, organisations can stay ahead of the curve.
By managing menopause effectively with practical solutions and ensuring an open, well informed and inclusive culture, employers can increase attendance and performance, improve gender parity, employee engagement and see a rise in the attraction and retention of talent. The menopause needs to be taken into consideration as part of the full life cycle, like periods, pregnancy and infant loss.