Updated: Mar 8
Creating a positive, open conversation around menopause is really important for women to help avoid stigma and ensure that they receive the right support. Particularly in the workplace, misunderstandings around menopause can have negative effects on women's careers and confidence, so it's important that everyone is aware of the issues surrounding menopause, not just those women experiencing it.
What is the menopause?
It is the biological stage in a woman's life that occurs when she stops menstruating and reaches the end of her natural reproductive life. The process can span several years as reproductive hormone levels start to drop, causing the onset of irregular periods and then the cessation of periods and the ability to reproduce altogether. For most women this will occur between the ages of 45 and 55, but in some it may occur earlier or later than this.
Each woman’s experience of the menopause is different but common symptoms include:
hot flushes and night sweats -sudden surges of intense heat that can produce discomfort and embarrassment if the effects are visible
headaches / migraines
sleep disturbance that can cause tiredness, irritability and difficulty focusing on things
mood disturbances such as anxiety, depression and a tendency to swing between moods
difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness which affects confidence and the ability to cope with usual tasks
muscle and joint stiffness, generalized aches and pains
recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) including cystitis
palpitations (heartbeats that become more noticeable)
skin changes (dryness, acne, general itchiness)
reduced sex drive.
1 in 3 women will suffer such severe symptoms of the menopause that it affects their quality of life sufficiently for it to be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010
A healthy diet and regular exercise can help to manage menopausal symptoms, but if symptoms are affecting your usual daily activities, talk to your GP. Your doctor may advise:
Hormone Replacement Therapy – to relieve symptoms
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – to help with your mood and anxiety
Referral to a menopause specialist if symptoms have become debilitating
The Menopause and Work
Supporting people who are going through the menopause has benefits in terms of their wellbeing, work performance and attendance.
View the menopause as an individual event. Consider how the menopause may impact on:
women who are symptomatic
women in a same sex relationship, where one or both are menopausal
women of various ethnicities
women that have undergone genital mutilation in their teens
people living in the gender linked to their identity rather than their birth
men and the wider organisation
Employees may find it embarrassing to discuss the menopause and ask for help. Sensitivity, empathy and trust is needed to encourage openness so that the employee can access appropriate support at work, for example:
Adaptations to the physical environment (e.g. the provision of a desktop fan, access to break out facility)
Adjustments to the nature, hours and pattern of work
Specific risk assessment and control measures to ensure that work is not exacerbating the symptoms
The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on employers to ensure that discrimination does not occur in their workplaces. Foster an inclusive culture that values and respects the contributions of all employees irrespective of their personal characteristics.
Our sources and for more information: Guidance for employers https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/menopause/people-professionals-guidance http://www.fom.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/Guidance-on-menopause-and-the-workplace-v6.pdf https://adviceforemployers.co.uk/2019/10/22/new-acas-guidance-on-menopause-and-the-workplace/ www.hse.gov.uk/risk. https://nipsa.org.uk/publications/GMW-1.pdf https://www.tuc.org.uk/menopause-workplace-toolkit-trade-unionists-wales-tuc-cymru Guidance for people affected by the menopause: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/ https://thebms.org.uk/ www.daisynetwork.org https://www.womens-health-concern.org/help-and-advice/factsheets/menopause/ https://megsmenopause.com/