The Government has urged employers to do more to help women going through the menopause by making workplaces menopause-friendly. A government funded report has provided recommendations for employers after acknowledging that UK workplaces do not cater for staff undergoing the menopause.

With more women in work than ever before and the largest increase of those in employment for the age group of women of 50 and over, more businesses are likely to be required to manage women going through the menopause. This new report, however, found that menopause is not well understood or supported in the workplace and advocated for a cultural and social change to ensure this is catered for when providing a high quality of working life for female staff.

Symptoms of the menopause differ between individuals and can range from hot flushes, headaches and depression to fatigue and sleep loss. These transitionary symptoms can lead to negative effects on women at work such as reduced productivity and increased absenteeism. The report found many women feel they have to cope with their symptoms by themselves and are reluctant to speak up at work because they find this embarrassing or they don’t want their employer to feel their performance is affected.

The report suggested that employers should:

  • Allow access to desk fans, provide good ventilation and allow women to control the temperature of air conditioning or heating;
  • Keep clean and well-equipped toilet facilities;
  • Provide cold drinking water;
  • Provide lighter, non-synthetic uniforms or clothing that women can choose to wear;
  • Create quiet workplace rest areas and reduce women’s exposure to noise to reduce fatigue symptoms.

The report also calls on employers to agree to requests for flexible working patterns to reduce the effect of menopause-related sleep loss and recommends introducing a specific policy on the issue. This policy could be used to outline the support offered by the company, highlight any special arrangements around absences or flexible working for women suffering from symptoms, and include any reporting requirements to ensure women are aware of who they need to speak to regarding their symptoms.

One of the most important findings from the report was the reluctance of many women to raise issues relating to their menopause with their manager or employer. For many women, this is an extremely sensitive and private issue. Managers should be trained on having these conversations with women to ensure they are responding in a supportive, sensitive and constructive manner. Alternatively, some employers may allocate a person within the company for people to speak to regarding personal needs. In addition, the provision of medical or counselling support as an employee benefit can help employees understand their symptoms and seek confidential medical help on working with these symptoms.