Menopause support for staff and line managers
More women are working until later in life, which means they will be working through their peri-menopause, menopause and for years afterwards. There is an increasing focus on supporting women during this time and responsible employers are beginning to put guidance in place to facilitate this.
What is menopause?
Menopause is the day a woman has achieved 12 months without periods and Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause (can be eight years). The average age of menopause is 51 but for some women the symptoms can start much earlier. Some women experience a natural early menopause because of Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI). In Britain 110,000 women between the ages of 12 and 40 are affected. Other women may experience an early menopause due to a hysterectomy (womb removal), oophectomy (removal of ovaries), certain types of chemotherapy drugs and radiotherapy to the pelvic area.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
Menopause causes an imbalance in hormones and this can generate a number of debilitating symptoms that for some women are so severe meet the criteria of a disability. Although hot flushes are typically cited as a stereotypical symptom, for many women the fatigue, painful joints, migraines, mental health issues and brain fog (that can feel like early on-set dementia) are the most difficult to deal with. Women may decide to deal with their symptoms by making lifestyle changes or taking natural supplements or HRT.
What is important to note is that every woman experiences the menopause as an individual and any adjustments should take into account their needs and personal circumstances.
This five minute video from Henpicked shares facts and figures on the menopause that are helpful for those living with the menopause and line managers who are trying to be supportive.
The University of Manchester has an online support group that is female only. This shares articles and news items about the menopause and experiences. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to this group.
All staff (male and female) are invited to join the Menopause Network Group. You will be added to a listserv to receive best practice updates and invitations to events to ensure the University of Manchester is a leader in supporting menopausal women in the workplace. Please email email@example.com to join.
Line manager support
The University of Manchester has over 1,000 women who may be impacted by the symptoms of the menopause and this excludes those women who may be experiencing an early menopause. As at April 2018:
Out of 2088 female academics 990 (47.4%) of them were aged between 40-60.
Out of 3225 female Professional Services staff 1595 (49.5%) of them were aged between 40-60.
A number of women living through the menopause have considered leaving their workplaces due to poor support. It is worth noting that the average cost of replacing an employee earning £25k per annum is estimated at £30k based on recruitment costs and training.
As well as Contract Law there is legislation, ACAS Codes of Practice and internal procedures at the University to ensure women are not treated less favourably.
In particular the Equality Act (2010) has 9 protected characteristics including sex, disability and age which can all relate to menopause. It's important for employers and line managers (who have personal liability) to ensure that adjustments are made where possible to avoid any claims of direct or indirect discrimination by treating someone less favourably because of disability, age or sex.