By Elaine Pritchard, HR Policy Consultant, Moorepay
With more and more cases being won in Employment Tribunals, citing menopause as a reason for unfair dismissal, companies really should be talking more about menopause.
It’s highly likely that menopause will be included in the Protected Characteristics list for discrimination in the very near future, so that’s another reason why companies should be talking to all of their employees about menopause. It cannot go on being a taboo subject.
Menopause in context
Lots of research has been going on recently to gauge how many companies actually do support employees with menopause. The figures are not great!
Only 32% of men surveyed said that they had ever had a discussion about menopause. However, 66% of men said that they thought understanding the menopause was important. Encouragingly, almost 60% of men said they had spoken about menopause at home, but this figure drops to 16% who have spoken with fellow employees at work, with an even bigger fall to 13% of men who say the have spoken about it outside of work.
And why is this important? Men currently make up the majority of senior management positions. So if men don’t talk about menopause, and therefore don’t know much about it, it’s going to affect how they deal with menopausal staff members when it does occur. A lack of understanding between managers and their reports, and peer-to-peer relationships too, could lead to unnecessary tension, and potentially even discrimination against those suffering with symptoms. Not to mention a better understanding of menopause leads to more empathetic relationships both in and outside of work, which helps everyone.
Taking into account that women are the fastest-growing workplace demographic, and that Britain has an ageing working population, this topic must be discussed more openly. Yes, talking about menopause may be difficult at first, but it needs to be addressed, just as you would address any other long-term medical condition.
So, if you’ve never had workplace discussions about menopause, how do you start?
Ask yourself ‘what do I already know?’ ‘what do I need to know?’ and ‘what am I worried about?’
Then ask yourself ‘how am I going to find out more?’ The obvious answer to this is to talk to women who are affected. It would be great if that was done as a face-to-face meeting, but as we’ve already established, it’s not always easy to do that. An anonymous survey could be a good first step instead. The survey should be sent to all employees, not just women. The idea behind this is to bring all genders together, and create better understanding, not to make the experience separate people.
You could also set up a discussion space, either electronic and/or physical. This will enable colleagues at all levels, including senior managers, to ask questions to gain a better understanding of the situation.
It would also be a good idea to set up a designated menopause point of contact. This would normally be someone who volunteers to be that person.
There are a few good starting points when discussing menopause:
The first is the symptoms. This will help everyone to understand that the menopause affects everyone differently – and people can have vastly different symptoms to each other. How these symptoms may affect work, and how they can be managed, is also a useful point of discussion.
Help people to realise that although menopause is experienced mainly by women, it affects everyone: men, children, mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents and friends. So women, and other people going through menopause, shouldn’t have to face it alone, and definitely not in secrecy.
You might want to discuss when menopause starts. Yes, in the main, it affects women who are in their late forties/early fifties, but menopause can also be brought about by medical reasons and therefore can start at any age. And of course it doesn’t go away – it’s something which people have to learn to cope with for the rest of their lives.
The Menopause Workplace Pledge
Taking such small steps can soon lead to a more open culture where employees are comfortable talking about not only menopause, but other often ‘taboo’ topics such as mental health and stress etc.
Hopefully, your company will take these steps to promote a more open culture. You may even decide to sign up to the Menopause Workplace Pledge, which is supported by Bupa and partnered with Hello! magazine, encouraging workplaces to take positive action to support everyone with menopausal symptoms.
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