Menopause in the Workplace: supporting your employees

Gemma O'Connor - Head of Service

March 20 2024

Published: March 20th 2024

Most women – seven in ten, to be precise – expect their workplace to have a menopause policy in place. Meanwhile, only a small percentage (18%) of businesses do, according to recent statistics.

Menopause is a natural part of life for many women. Indeed, in 2022 it was estimated that nearly 600,000 people were affected by menopause at any one time in Ireland.

With the average age of retirement increasing, it's important for employers to acknowledge their employees’ lived reality with an inclusive working environment and supportive measures, which could include a menopause policy.

In this article, we detail how menopause affects women in the workplace and how employers can support them through this time.

What is menopause?

Menopause is typically thought of as beginning when the menstrual cycle stops for more than twelve consecutive months. However, perimenopausal symptoms can be felt from up to 6 years prior to the onset of menopause.

Menopausal symptoms can be both mental and physical, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

Signs of menopause can include:

  • Night sweats
  • Physical pain, such as stiff joints
  • Trouble with memory
  • Hot flushes
  • Frequent mood swings, including depression and anxiety

For those who experience menopause, symptoms are not always the same and often vary from person to person.

Discrimination in the workplace

While there are no laws in Ireland that place specific protection for employees experiencing menopause, they are still protected under the Employment Equality Act (2015).

Under this law, all employees have a legal right to be treated fairly. You cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of any of the following protected characteristics:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Family status
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Members of the Traveller community
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation

If an employee feels they have been discriminated against on the basis of one of the above grounds, they are entitled seek enforcement of equal treatment.

Does menopause need to be included in Health & Safety policies?

There are no specific Health & Safety measures for employers to include in risk assessments which cover menopause. The normal statutory duties under the Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 apply.

Risk assessments should nonetheless consider the needs of any people who might be experiencing menopausal symptoms. Employers can consider making workplace adjustments to ensure the work environment isn’t aggravating any symptoms being experienced by menopausal staff.

Some workplace adjustments for employers to consider include:

  • Regulating temperature, humidity and ventilation.
  • Providing cold drinking water.
  • Providing a quiet space.
  • Updating leave and absence policies to take account of menopause symptoms.

Support your employees with a menopause policy

Menopause can be a difficult time, and a written menopause policy can help affected employees feel supported and heard by their employer.

What does a menopause policy achieve?

  • Raises awareness internally, which fosters a supportive workplace culture.
  • Reduces workplace absence through awareness and promotes employee retention.
  • Encourages a workplace in which staff openly and comfortably discuss menopause.
  • Establishes a clear definition of menopause and how it may impact performance.
  • Provides clear information on what measures your business takes to support employees experiencing menopause.

Menopause procedures to benefit employers and employees

There are also some procedures that can be implemented that can support both employers and employees. They include:

  • Provide line managers with training on adapting workplace duties and protocol to support the needs of all employees, including those impacted by menopause.
  • Offering access to relevant resources such as counselling and menopause support groups in Ireland.
  • Setting up an internal awareness campaign which acknowledges menopause as a legitimate source of discomfort for some employees.

Get practical and tailor-made advice on supporting employees with menopause

As an employer, you are obliged to establish a workplace that is inclusive and supportive of your employees' health.

Chances are that menopause is a fact of life for more than one of your employees. By having relevant policies and procedures in place, you will foster a supportive work environment which encourages open conversation among staff.

At Peninsula, we offer expert guidance for employers on how they can best support their employees, no matter their circumstances. Call an expert today on 1800 719 216.

Suggested Resources