Menopause | Third of women hide symptoms at work

Third of women hide symptoms at work

Stigma around menopause within professional industries continues to be a growing concern, according to a new report from Vodafone, which found that up to one-third of women who have suffered from the symptoms of menopause say that they opted to hide them in the workplace.

The research, which polled more than 5,000 women from five key countries including the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and South Africa, found that 37% of respondents believed the stigma around the issue of menopause had prevented them from either vocalising the issues they were facing, or reporting them to HR, as reported by The Guardian.

Those who experienced the symptoms before the age of 45 were most likely to hide the issues they were facing and were ‘too embarrassed’ to ask for support from their employer. Of those within the UK, a shocking 63% of adults under the age of 44 had opted not to ask for help – significantly higher than in other age groups, where the average was 43%.

What are companies doing to help?

While the statistics are shocking, several employers are attempting to fight the stigma around menopause. In fact, in 2019 Channel 4 gained attention when the media network announced a range of measures for supporting those suffering from symptoms. These included flexible working arrangements and specialised workspaces with temperature control and more relaxing atmospheres.

Telecommunications network Vodafone also recently confirmed a “global commitment” to supporting workers going through menopause after asserting that around 15,000 of its 100,000 employees would be currently experiencing the issues.

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Vodaphone’s internal campaign included rolling out training and awareness programmes to all employees, and staging webinars on areas such as “hormonal health and life stages”.

Leanne Wood, Chief Human Resources Officer at Vodafone, told The Guardian that the move was part of the company’s “desire for women to see Vodafone as the place to be for their career through all stages of their life”.

“With menopause impacting women for a significant period of their working life, it’s important to us that our environment supports and normalises these life stages by openly talking about and supporting menopause in the workplace,” she added.

However, it seems that companies like Vodaphone and Channel 4 are still in the minority as data has pointed towards. A recent survey of more than 1,000 female professionals over the age of 45 found that a whopping 90% of workplaces aren’t supporting employees with menopause-related issues.

The study, which was conducted by Forth With Life, discovered that of the 77% of respondents who had either been through menopause or were currently experiencing symptoms, almost none felt like they were receiving the support they needed.

What can HR do to improve menopause support for staff?

Research from CIPD previously highlighted the impact that menopause can have on employees. The data found that 59% of working women between the ages of 45 and 55-years-old who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work.

The research also emphasised the need for additional support in the workplace, as 48% of respondents stated that they feel supported by their colleagues, while just 32% said they felt supported by their managers.

This statistic is particularly concerning as menopause is protected under the Equality Act 2010, which means that employers and HR have a legal responsibility to support employees going through it and suffering from symptoms.

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According to Alex Christen, an Employment Lawyer at Capital Law, “failing to do so may bring legal consequences” for employees to deal with.

She advised that claims which could arise include indirect sex and disability discrimination; sex, disability and age-related harassment; victimisation; failure to make reasonable adjustments; and unfair dismissal.

Christen previously explained to HR Grapevine: “Failing to fulfill these duties may bring legal consequences. If a woman experiencing the menopause is treated detrimentally because of menopausal symptoms and these are not taken into account within policies or practices, it could potentially give rise to claims.”

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