Is Menopause effecting you at work?
Sometimes the menopause has no impact and women can sail through it with barely a symptom. But this transitional period is not easy for all.
There are the often embarrassing and stressful symptoms to contend with, which can be made worse by the negative perception of menopause in wider society, as well as a lack of accurate knowledge regarding the subject.
All of this can cause people to become isolated, disengaged and demotivated – particularly if they find their workplace uncomfortable and unsupportive.
In fact, alarmingly, a 2019 report by Health and Her found that 370,000 women in the U.K. had left work or were contemplating doing so because of the impact of menopausal symptoms.
I in 10 women leave work due their menopausal symptoms (Fawcett Society, Menopause and the workplace 2022)
Research shows that 81 % of menopausal employees suggested that menopause had a moderate to extremely high impact on their performance at work. (Talking Menopause survey 2021)
The main reasons given for the impact was Hot Flushes, Brain Fog, Overwhelm, headaches, anxiety and depression.
Approximately reportedly costs UK businesses 14 million working days each year, the equivalent of £1.88 billion in lost productivity each year. The research has found that 15% of women have called in sick due to the menopause. (Health & Her 2019)
Women feel that they cannot talk to their managers about how they are feeling and either suffer in silence, take sick days or in extreme cases leave their positions.
Approximately 75%-80% of women of menopausal age are in the workforce. (2018)
98% of women want to see Menopause normalised in the workplace (Talking Menopause Client Surveys 2021)
How to cope with menopause at work
You can ask for support from your employer to help make coping with menopause at work more manageable. For example, you could ask for adjustments to help make your workday easier to manage, or you could simply find that letting your workplace know that you are experiencing symptoms can lead to greater understanding and support.
How to speak to your employer about menopause
It can be daunting to approach your employer about your menopausal symptoms, especially if you feel it’s affecting your performance at work or you are feeling ill and need time off work.
Here are some tips for how to prepare to speak to your employer:
- Arm yourself with information about menopause to help you understand the symptoms and their links to how you are feeling at work.
- Schedule a 1:1 meeting with your manager to discuss how you are feeling. If you don’t feel comfortable raising this topic with your manager then consider meeting with a HR manager or someone else that you trust.
- Before the meeting, consider sending them an email ahead of this meeting with a link to our Menopause Resources so that they can understand more about menopause. In your email, you could say that you’d like to discuss this topic in your 1:1.
- Prepare for the meeting by noting down how you are feeling about work and the symptoms you are experiencing.
- Think through the outcomes you are hoping for from the meeting so that you can be clear about what you will be asking for. For example, you might want your manager to simply be aware that you are going through menopause so that they can support you if needed in the future. Alternatively, you might want to ask for specific workplace adjustments now such as flexible working or a cooling fan.
- Look at what other workplace support is available to you (or ask your manager if you are unsure) – occupational health services can help with workplace adjustments, some workplaces offer confidential listening & counselling services, and others are introducing digital GP services for easy-to-organise doctor appointments.
What adjustments can you ask for?
Small changes can make a big difference. Here are some suggestions for adjustments you could ask for from your employer. Of course, these will depend on your own personal circumstances, the symptoms you are experiencing and the type of work that you do.
- Flexibility in your working hours – to help you manage your tiredness and low energy levels. You might also need time to attend doctors’ appointments or to see a specialist.
- Workstation adjustments – for example, a desk fan to keep you cool, a seat closer to the air conditioning vents and away from radiators, a seat closer to the toilets. If you work in an organisation that offers them, you could ask for a workplace risk assessment to make sure that the area you work in isn’t contributing to or worsening your symptoms.
- Meeting etiquette – encourage your workplace to schedule 25 minute and 55 minutes meetings (instead of 30 minute and 60 minute meetings) to ensure you (and others!) have time between meetings to take a bathroom break.
- Uniform – if you are required to wear a uniform for work, take a look at the fabrics to see if they are contributing to you feeling hot or uncomfortable. If possible, ask your employer about swapping these fabrics for cooling cotton or if the fit of your uniform can be looser.
What are your rights in the workplace?
Your employer may have introduced a Menopause Policy, so it’s worth looking on your company intranet (your internal, employee-only website) or asking a HR representative if you are not sure.
If not, in the UK there are pieces of legislation which relate to your rights during menopause:
- The Equality Act. While this does not specifically cover Menopause and perimenopause, if you have been treated unfairly due to menopause and perimenopause you may find this is discrimination due to your sex, and/or age, and/or disability [Source: ACAS]
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 This is clear that an employer must, where reasonably practical, ensure health, safety and welfare at work.
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 These state it is an employer’s duty to make workplaces suitable for the individuals who work in them.
The important thing is not to suffer in silence, you have rights and you should feel comfortable in exercising them. If you workplace doesn’t have a menopause policy they can access information about their responsibilities at