Menopause symptoms can create an uncomfortable and isolating experience for staff at work. 900,000 workers in the UK have quit their jobs because of it.
To help break the stigma and avoid staff resignations, here are the key things to include in your menopause policy.
1. Policy aims
Because of the stigma around menopause, you might struggle to raise the subject with staff. Your staff might also struggle to discuss their issues with you.
This is why you should be clear about the aims of your menopause policy. What do you want to achieve? What should staff expect?
Your aims might be to:
- provide support to affected staff by offering guidance
- raise awareness
- break the stigma
- create an environment where staff feel comfortable talking openly about menopause and can ask for support when they need it
2. A definition and the common symptoms
Briefly explain what menopause is. Explain how it affects individuals – but be careful not to generalise. Menopause affects people in different ways.
Make sure you do your research and find out the most common symptoms. Menopause sufferers tend to experience:
- hot flushes
- low mood or anxiety
- problems with memory and concentration
- joint stiffness, aches, and pains
- difficulty sleeping
- heart palpitations
Then, list the symptoms in your policy.
3. Legal context
Menopausal staff might experience discrimination at work. Their colleagues might treat them less favourably than others. Or they might even be victims of workplace bullying or harassment.
Outline what discrimination is and the laws in place to protect workers such as:
- The Equality Act 2010 – protects staff from discrimination
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – an employer must take reasonable steps to protect staff’s health, safety, and welfare
Menopause is not on the protection list. But discrimination against age, disability, gender reassignment, and sex is illegal.
In some cases, the law might class menopause as a disability.
4. Adjustments to work
You might need to take steps to make menopausal staff feel more comfortable at work. Outline what this support will look like. Will you be making changes to the workplace, their job role, or both?
The best way to find out how to support staff is to carry out a menopause risk assessment. That way, you can find factors that might be a risk to health & safety or contribute to work-related stress.
In your risk assessment, consider the following:
- The workplace environment – how might the temperature affect menopausal staff experiencing hot flushes? Is the workplace well ventilated? How easy is it for staff to access the toilet facilities?
- The uniform – is the uniform comfortable or suitable? Be aware that menopause sufferers may experience skin irritation and sweating.
- The role – menopause sufferers may experience sleepless nights, headaches, and memory problems on top of other symptoms. If the current role puts too much strain on the worker’s health, consider changing the responsibilities of the role or offering alternative work.
After your risk assessment, you can make adjustments. This might include moving your worker’s desk closer to the toilets. It might be adding a resting area for sufferers to take time out. Or, you might make changes to their working routine by allowing:
- flexible working – working reduced hours or from home
- regular breaks – longer, frequent breaks throughout the day
As well as the support you’ll offer, mention things staff can do to help themselves too – like a healthy diet and regular exercise. If they don’t want to share their issues at work, direct them to organisations that can help.
Need to carry out a risk assessment?
Your health & safety experts will visit your workplace and help you identify and remove hazards.
5. Contact information
Include the contact details of people staff can talk to about getting menopause support. You should have more than one person ideally, so they have a choice.
You might nominate line managers, HR reps, or wellbeing representatives to raise awareness and tell staff where they can find more information.
Avoid discrimination with watertight documentation
If you want to set up a menopause policy but you’re not sure where to start, leave it to your HR contract experts. They can amend your policies or draft up new ones for you, so you stay up to date and safe from legal risk. And don’t forget, your adviser is just a call away if you need any urgent HR or health & safety advice about supporting menopausal staff.
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