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Supporting staff through the menopause

It is important for workers to know they have the support of their employers during what can sometimes be difficult times in their life.

Employers have a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their staff, so delicate subjects like the menopause need to be approached in a clear and supportive manner.

This ensures that any worker who needs additional support feels able to approach management on the issue and are fully aware of the steps that can be taken by the company on their behalf.

The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age as a woman’s oestrogen levels decline. Studies have shown that menopause symptoms can have a significant impact on attendance and performance in the workplace.

With our population now living longer and working longer, it’s vital that staff are supported to stay well and thrive in the workplace. Menopause is not just a female issue, it’s an organisational issue.

All managers need to know about it and how they can support their staff and assess risks that the workplace may pose. In addition, the Equality Act 2010 outlines that employees must not be discriminated against due to any form of disability.

Although an employee going through the menopause is not automatically protected by the provisions of the Act, the symptoms that can arise from the menopause may be classed as a disability if they meet the required definition.

To defend against any liabilities, and potentially costly compensation awards, businesses taking steps to offer support and assistance to all individuals who are going through the menopause will experience real benefits. By fostering a workplace where employees feel safe, companies are more likely to retain the skills and experience of its employees.

To clearly outline organisational procedures that are in place to support and assist those going through the menopause, it may be useful to create an official policy which may include the following:

  • a general introduction, highlighting what the policy is for and reaffirming your commitment to treating all individuals fairly
  • an outline of the aims and objectives of the policy
  • an outline of any action or support groups that are being put in place to help, alongside any intentions to work with the menopause actions and third-party groups
  • a list of the type of support on offer, e.g. time away from work where the symptoms are severe, encouraging communication, easy access to toilet facilities by repositioning the employee, providing alternative tasks to heavy lifting to combat increased levels of fatigue and muscle strain, etc.

Individuals respond differently to the menopause and it is essential companies are fully aware of this fact. Some women may be relatively unaffected whilst others experience significant difficulties for prolonged periods of time.

All line managers and HR representatives must be fully conversant with the policy on responding to the menopause and be able to respond to it in a non-discriminatory and open manner. Essentially, employees should feel comfortable and secure approaching this topic with their managers.

  • There are 3.5 million women over 50 in the workplace.
  • In the UK, the average age for a woman to go through menopause is 51.
  • Around one in 100 women experience menopause before age 40.
  • Three out of four women experience symptoms, one in four could experience serious symptoms.

For help and advice on matters relating to employment law, contact our expert team today.

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