Menopause can have a detrimental impact on employees’ work and well-being when challenging symptoms are compounded by lack of workplace support. In response, the CIPD has launched new guidance to help HR professionals and line managers tackle a mainstream issue that is often still shrouded in silence.
The guidance is underpinned by the findings of a CIPD and YouGov survey of 1,409 women highlighting the difficulties faced by those between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms.
Of the three out of five women surveyed who said menopause has a negative impact on them at work, nearly two-thirds (65%) said they were less able to concentrate, more than half (58%) said they experienced more stress and a similar figure (52%) said they felt less patient with clients and colleagues.
Common symptoms can include hot flushes, sleep disturbances and night sweats, as well as psychological symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety and memory loss. Nearly a third of women surveyed (30%) said they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms, but only a quarter felt able to tell their manager the real reason for their absence because of privacy considerations (45%), embarrassment (34%) and managers being perceived as unsupportive (32%).
Similar research from Health & Her and Censuswide indicates that women in this demographic have left or considered leaving their careers due to the difficulty of dealing with symptoms in the workplace, with many working extra hours during evenings and weekends to make up for menopause-related absences.
The practical advice set out in the CIPD’s guidance shows that such dire consequences are not inevitable. There are straightforward steps that organisations can offer to improve the situation – for example amended hours to manage insomnia; access to cold water, ventilation and uniform adjustments to increase physical comfort; and mutually agreed role adjustments to help manage stress, concentration and memory loss.
Raising awareness of the issue is a crucial first step to ensuring challenges are dealt with considerately, rather than misunderstood as indicators of poor performance or handled in potentially discriminatory ways.
Women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing group in the UK workforce according to the Office for National Statistics, with the number of 50 to 64-year-old women in work currently at 4.4 million. Organisations that actively create a culture of openness and support for a range of personal circumstances, including menopause, will be best placed to attract and retain valuable talent from this increasingly important pool.
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9th May 2019