The average age of employees has increased in recent times. This means more of us are working well into our senior years.
Menopause is a health condition which is generally found in the older community. According to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM), 8 out of 10 menopausal women and gender nonconforming people are still working.
At times, menopause can be manageable at work. But at its worst, it can affect a person's everyday functionality. However, if you neglect employees altogether, you could face discrimination claims, compensation penalties, and reputational damage.
In this guide, we’ll look at what menopause is; different types of symptoms; and how to support menopausal women, trans, and non-binary employees.
What is menopause?
Menopause is when a person stops having menstrual cycles. When this happens, their periods cease for around twelve consecutive months. People often feel a range of menopause symptoms. And these can initiate between four to six weeks prior to fully starting.
Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace. And the average age people experience symptoms is 45 to 55 years old.
What are the different menopausal transitions?
There are three stages of a menopause transition:
- Perimenopause: This is the transitional stage before menopause.
- Postmenopause: The is the transitional stage after menopause.
People can go through these stages at any given time. They can also experience early menopause, as well as a later version.
Menopause transition stages affect people in a variety of ways–going through a range of menopausal symptoms. It can affect women, transgender, non-binary people, or those with VSD (variation of sex development).
What are common menopausal symptoms?
When a person goes through menopause, they can experience both physical and mental difficulties. In some cases, these health conditions can range from mild to severe–with no means of ending.
Some of the most common menopausal symptoms include:
- Night sweats.
- Weight gain.
- Hot flushes.
- Low mood states.
- Poor concentration.
- Loss of memory or 'brain-fog'.
- Physical pains.
People may feel embarrassed or stressed when asked to share their symptoms or health state. Others may go through experiencing menopause with barely a symptom to show for it.
As an employer, it's important to support everyone experiencing symptoms in the workplace. Aim to understand individual stages for both gender nonconforming and women's health during this time.
Is there a law on menopause and the workplace?
In the UK, there is no specific law which covers menopause at work. However, there are legal factors you need to consider for anyone going through it.
Menopause is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. However, age, disability, and sex are all characteristics which are legally protected against unfair treatment.
As an employer, you need to protect the health, safety, and welfare of all staff. This includes vulnerable employees experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Providing a secure and comfortable environment means they can work in the safest conditions. You also need to ensure these employees are given the same work opportunities as their colleagues. For example, for things like promotions or training.
Can menopause symptoms account for a disability?
Under the Equality Act, an employee's menopause symptoms (physical or mental) can legally account for a disability if it:
- Has a ‘substantial adverse effect’ on their daily life.
- Lasts at least 12 months (or is expected to).
- Influences their ability to do normal activities.
If an employee's menopause is medically linked to a disability, you need to provide their legal entitlements.
You can also follow the UK government regulations on reasonable adjustments. These can range from providing flexible working to changing workplace conditions.
Ignoring employees means you could worsen their symptoms without realising. Here, they could decide to raise a disability discrimination claim against you. This can result in paying compensation and facing reputational damages.
Menopause discrimination in the workplace
Menopause has a lot of negative connotations and stigma revolving around it. This often leads to employees suffering from discrimination because of their health.
You need to ensure employees are protected against discrimination relating to menopause. Whether it might be passing jokes or 'banter'; this type of behaviour can legally class as harassment (even sexual harassment in some cases) under employment laws.
In other cases, employees could suffer from sex discrimination, too. This happens when an employee's health symptoms are dismissed because it relates to their sex. If courts discovered the victim suffered from ill-treatment relating to menopause (where opposite sex employees with the same symptoms were treated well), employers could be guilty of sex discrimination.
In the end, treating employees unfairly could lead to ruining relations for good. Employees could lose confidence in their capabilities and decide to leave–affecting your production, revenue, and reputation.
How to support employees with menopause at work
In some cases, an employee's menopausal condition can be a defining factor in their everyday life. Some menopause symptoms can affect one’s every action–from the minute you wake up, to when you go to bed.
That's why you need to provide as much support as possible to vulnerable employees going through menopause. Without the right care, people end up suffering alone–and this leads to impacts on the whole business.
Here are steps on how to support women, trans, and non-binary people with menopause at work:
Create a menopause policy
An important step for all employers to take, is to create a menopause policy.
This guidance document must outline different ways to protect women, trans, and non-binary people going through menopause at work. The policy can include providing occupational health advice or reasonable adjustments (like flexible working or amended sickness absence).
By making active changes to policies, you can easily cater to employees and their sensitive needs.
Implement menopause risk assessments
When dealing with menopausal employees, you need to implement risk assessments. These tests can pinpoint potential hazards in your workplace environment or practices.
Use risk assessment findings to identify and manage triggers for any menopause impact to one’s health conditions. A menopause risk assessment can include the following:
- Checking workplace ventilation and room temperatures.
- Providing suitable access to toilet facilities.
- Ensuring uniforms aren't restrictive or uncomfortable.
- Making reasonable adjustments to work conditions.
- Providing health referrals to relevant employees.
Raise awareness on menopausal conditions
All employees must understand what menopause is and how to spot common symptoms. You should also consider every negative impact to the individual–on a woman's life, as well as those who are gender nonconforming.
Your workplace environment must be proactive in increasing awareness on menopause. Build your evidence base surrounding factors like occupational health advice and emotional intelligence training. This should be accessible to every team-member, line-managers, and senior staff.
Train line-managers on menopause issues
You must support colleagues who mention menopausal symptoms or diagnoses.
Your menopause advocates can include colleagues, HR representatives, or line-managers. Remember, a line-manager doesn't need to be a high-ranking expert on menopause.
Provide training on how to support women and gender nonconforming people with menopausal issues during work. For example, taking regular breaks and adhering to safe working conditions.
As well as providing support, line-managers can highlight ways to make workplace menopause-situations comfortable.
Provide access to menopause services
You can provide access to menopause-related services like medical referrals or support groups. Many women and gender nonconforming people benefit from tailored advice or resources.
You can even provide practical advice through a holistic approach, such as mindfulness activities or health-related lifestyle changes.
Talk openly with your employees and identify what they specifically require. That way, you'll be able to make a big difference to both their professional and personal life.
Eliminate stigma on menopause
Your business needs to be proactive in eliminating negative stigmas on menopause. Especially those which derive from rumours or myths by the wider society.
Staff should acknowledge menopause is not a taboo subject, but a genuine medical condition–so it needs to be treated sincerely. If anyone raises a concern or grievance relating to their condition, you need to follow through with the best practice.
According to the British Menopause Society, 45% of women felt their menopausal symptoms had a negative impact on their work. And 47% who needed menopause-related sick leave would not share their conditions with their employers.
That's because many women and gender nonconforming people don’t feel comfortable talking about their conditions. As a result, many employees suffer in silence. Every significant impact can lead to them feeling unmotivated and unappreciated.
Offer amended leave for menopause
Under UK law, you have no legal obligation to offer time off for menopausal employees. However, there are benefits to offering this additional sick leave.
As a business, you benefit through:
- Increased retention: If you support menopausal employees, they're more likely to remain employed within their position. Employers can make savings through retaining their staff, which means more production and revenue.
- Reduced absence: One benefit of providing occupational health support is a significant decrease in extended absences and sick leave.
- Lower grievance claims: When employees feel comfortable at work, they're less likely to raise grievance claims. If menopausal employees receive the right support, they'll be able to work comfortably during difficult times.
Many employees continue to work through their menopause for more years than you'd think. So, make sure you apply the best support for them–keeping their health in check during this time.
Get expert guidance on raising awareness on menopause with Peninsula
As an employer, you have a lawful duty of care to protect any employee with menopause. Build a safe and healthy environment which allows them to work comfortably.
Without one, your staff could end up suffering alone–causing an increase in employee turnover and workplace disorder.
Peninsula offers expert guidance on raising awareness on menopause and the workplace. Our team offers unlimited 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year.
Our HR department also provides advice through multi-lingual support and fully trained counsellors who are ready to help with any personal injury claims.
Want to find out more? Book a free chat with one of our HR consultants. For further information, call 0800 028 2420.