Gone are the days when the menopause was only mentioned in hushed tones, or referred to coyly by euphemisms, like ‘the change’. With these outdated ideas firmly in the past, it is now recognised as a key issue affecting the workforce that employers must address. So, here we look at how you can support your employees going through the menopause, and why this is essential for the wellbeing of your workers and the success of your business as a whole.
What is the menopause?
At the risk of explaining to those who already know what the menopause is, perhaps through personal experience, a brief description of the condition would be useful, for clarity. This is particularly necessary as, according to a recent UK Government inquiry on Menopause and the Workplace, there is still a lack of understanding of what this entails, even among some women.
Menopause literally means ‘the end of monthly cycles’ and is defined by the NHS as ‘when a woman stops having periods’, while this can also affect non-binary and transgender people. It usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with 51 being the average age in the UK, although it may occur much earlier for some.
The lead-up to menopause is called perimenopause, which is when an individual has symptoms, but their periods have not yet stopped, and menopause is reached when they have not had a period for 12 months. Each individual’s experience of the condition is likely to vary, as everyone is different, and, according to research, ethnicity, cultural, religious, sociological and nutritional factors may affect the intensity and incidence of the many symptoms, which can include:
- Hot flushes and night sweats
- Low mood
- Panic attacks
- Problems with concentration and memory
- Difficulty sleeping
However, of these, the most common symptom is said to be hot flushes, with around 75% of women having them, which can be particularly difficult to deal with when experienced in the workplace. It is therefore vital that you do what you can, as an employer, to support your employees going through the menopause, for their wellbeing and to maintain their performance levels. This is especially important as symptoms can last for 10 years, or more, so it is a serious condition that can have a significant impact.
Why should you support your employees going through the menopause?
Indeed, the success of your business as well as the wellbeing of your employees can heavily depend on you supporting your staff going through the menopause. If you fail to do this, you could find that you lose some of your most experienced and highly skilled team members. In fact, a recent report found that one in 10 women who worked during the menopause had actually quit their job because of their symptoms. You could also see higher absenteeism levels, as research has found that many women are forced to take long-term absence, of an average of 32 weeks, to manage the symptoms of menopause.
This is by no means a peripheral issue but affects a significant proportion of your workforce, as according to the Department for Work & Pensions, women over 50 are the fastest growing segment of workers, and it is estimated that around one-third of the female population are currently going through perimenopause or menopause. Furthermore, in a British Menopause Society survey, 45% of women said that their menopause symptoms had had a negative impact on their work. So, failing to provide effective support could impact the productivity of your business more than you might realise.
Moreover, it is important that you support your employees who are going through the menopause if you want to retain as many of the experienced and highly skilled mid-life career women in your organisation as possible. Losing such employees, in this age bracket, is likely to mean losing female leaders, which could be particularly detrimental to your business’s success, as a recent report revealed that company profit and share performance can be around 50% higher when women are well represented in senior roles.
Ways to support your employees going through the menopause
So, how can you effectively support your employees who are going through the menopause? Well, the British Menopause Society offers helpful guidance on how to approach this issue, including the suggestion that you may want to ensure your business has a menopause policy to accommodate those affected by this condition. Alternatively, it suggests that you could mention the menopause in existing wellbeing and health policies.
There are many ways you can support your employees going through the menopause, but perhaps a good starting point is to ensure that you and your staff have a good understanding of how this can affect people, by researching and providing information on the subject and promoting a positive workplace culture that is accepting of the condition, to overcome any related taboos. It should also be treated with the same understanding as any other ongoing health condition that might impact your employees. Indeed, it is important that you do not discriminate against anyone because of their symptoms, and ensure you familiarise yourself with the law related to the menopause, to avoid any legal issues arising.
It is also a good idea to ensure that your staff have someone they can go to, to discuss any difficulties they are experiencing regarding the menopause. The British Menopause Society suggests having a named ‘menopause champion’ your employees can speak to for help and advice, and some workplaces also have support groups where people can share their experiences. However, as the menopause can be a sensitive issue to discuss, it is important to make sure that any conversations can take place in a private area.
In addition, it can be very helpful to ensure that you offer more flexible working options, such as part-time and remote working, to help your staff cope better with the symptoms of menopause. For example, working from home may make it easier for those experiencing the menopause to deal with hot flushes, than being in a crowded office surrounded by colleagues. You could also allow your staff to have desk fans, or even a window seat, to alleviate discomfort from this symptom. You might also want to consider providing extra leave for your staff, so they can take more time off if needed to deal with the effects of menopause. This could be offered via an employee benefit such as Mintago’s Holiday Buying Scheme, which allows them to achieve a better work-life balance and de-stress when required.
The importance of financial wellbeing support
Indeed, making sure that your employees are not overly stressed can be a very effective strategy for supporting your employees who are going through the menopause. While this condition can be a stressful experience in itself, extra stress may also have a detrimental impact on menopause symptoms. For example, hot flushes could be triggered by stress, and stress can also add to any sleep problems caused by the menopause, as this can make it even harder to get a good night’s rest. Likewise, mood swings can be triggered by stress, adding to this symptom as well.
In the current cost-of-living crisis, finances can be a significant source of stress, so providing financial wellbeing support for all your staff, especially those going through the menopause, is more important than ever. In fact, the impact of today’s economic climate, and the subsequent stress it causes, could be considerably worse on your female staff than your male employees, so minimising such stress for them is vital.
The reality of this was highlighted by Mintago research in May 2022, which found that 54% of women had seen their monthly outgoings at least double since the beginning of the year, compared to 45% of men, and almost half of women were losing sleep over financial concerns. Furthermore, 61% of women cited their finances as their greatest source of stress, compared to just 52% of men. The underlying cause of this has been called ‘Sheflation’, as recent research has found that women usually earn less, buy more of the items that are rising in price and are often primary caregivers, so cannot work more hours and struggle with high childcare costs. It is therefore especially important that you help reduce this stress for your female workers, who may also be going through the menopause.
You can do this in various cost-effective ways that needn’t involve providing a pay rise. With Mintago’s budget-friendly range of employee benefits, you can help significantly reduce the financial stress on your staff. For example, our Childcare Salary Sacrifice Scheme could help make childcare more affordable for all your employees who need it. But, as your female staff (including those going through the menopause) often take responsibility for this, it could really ease their stress. In fact, with this scheme, they could cut childcare costs by up to 47%, through National Insurance and Income Tax savings.
You might also want to consider providing Mintago’s Grocery Salary Sacrifice Scheme, which could considerably reduce the financial stress for your employees. As food prices have risen rapidly in recent months, this has no doubt increased the stress levels of all your staff, but with this innovative scheme, you can enable them to cut the cost of their weekly food shop by up to 10%, through National Insurance savings.
In fact, providing your employees with a first-class benefits package, like that supplied by Mintago, can not only help you reduce financial stress for all your staff, but also enable you to retain your top talent, including those highly experienced, mid-life female employees who may especially need your support while going through the menopause.
To discover more about how Mintago can help you support all your employees, including those going through the menopause, contact us today.