Menopause - A Guide for Managers
The role of line managers in supporting staff or students experiencing menopausal symptoms is crucial. Effective management of team members with menopausal symptoms which are impacting their work will help you to improve your team’s morale, retain valuable skills and talent and reduce sickness absence.
Individuals with menopausal symptoms should be supported in the same way as staff or students with any ongoing health condition. As a manager you have a responsibility to consider and put in place reasonable adjustments so the individual experiencing symptoms can carry on performing in their role. Small adjustments to someone’s job, working or study pattern can help people manage their symptoms and continue to perform well in their role. The individual is best placed to recognise what might help them therefore ensure you have regular open conversations with team members.
Menopause can affect people’s confidence and it can be daunting talking to someone who has no knowledge or awareness of the menopause. If a member of your team is experiencing symptoms that could possibly be caused by the menopause but they haven't disclosed it, it's important to be sensitive in how you approach them. Regular catch-ups or one-to-ones are an opportunity to start the conversation, which should always be in a private, confidential setting where everyone feels at ease. Approach the conversation with empathy and try not to be embarrassed by the issue and how the individual is feeling. If you are unsure how to broach the subject or would like some guidance please contact your HR Team.
While any health condition can understandably be a sensitive and personal issue for many, some of the symptoms associated with the menopause can manifest themselves in a particularly intimate, even visible way. It’s therefore understandable why many staff or students feel embarrassed and reluctant to discuss the impact of their symptoms. However, most people would prefer a concerned and genuine enquiry about how they are as opposed to silence.
It is important for managers to understand the issues, then offer support where appropriate.
- Be aware of the symptoms of the menopause and the difficulties that it can cause for an individual.
- How to approach a sensitive conversation: It’s important to set the right tone when opening a conversation about any sensitive issue. But try not to worry too much – being oversensitive will stop you from doing or saying anything. Review this checklist before approaching a sensitive conversation, and you won’t go far wrong:
- Avoid interruptions – switch off phones, ensure colleagues can’t walk in and interrupt.
- Ask simple, open, non-judgemental questions.
- Avoid judgemental or patronising responses.
- Speak calmly.
- Maintain good eye contact.
- Listen actively and carefully.
- Encourage the individual to talk.
- Give them ample opportunity to explain the situation in their own words.
- Show empathy and understanding.
- Be prepared for some silences and be patient.
- Focus on the person, not the problem.
- Avoid making assumptions or being prescriptive.
(the above checklist has been adapted from the CIPD and Mind’s People Managers’ Guide to Mental Health)
- Carry out a stress risk assessment if relevant
- Manage workload and try to reduce stress and pressure as this can increase menopause symptoms.
- Remember that menopause symptoms can fluctuate so take a flexible approach and check in regularly with the individual.
- Offer solutions if workplace temperature and ventilation is a problem, such as a desktop fan or location of a workstation near to an opening window or away from a heat source.
- Consider flexible working or shift changes if sleep is being disturbed or if they need help dealing with their symptoms.
- Consider allowing working from home on a temporary basis if relevant.
- Offer regular breaks.
- Provide access to cold drinking water if possible.
- Ensure convenient access to washroom and toilet facilities.
- Recommend using technology where appropriate for note taking and reminders if memory problems are an issue.
- Advise to see GP to discuss concerns.
- Provide time off to attend medical appointments if necessary.
- Ensure you agree if other members of the team should be informed and what they should be told by whom, otherwise ensure you maintain confidentiality
- Refer to Occupational Health for further support, advice and possible work adjustments when relevant.
For full guidance see the CIPD’s A guide to managing menopause at work: guidance for line managers.