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The positive impacts of having a menopause policy at work 

The positive impacts of having a menopause policy at work


Positively managing the menopause at work by supporting affected employees has huge benefits for their wellbeing, as well as helping employers retain valued members of staff. Jane Warren reports.


It is estimated that currently more than 10 per cent of women of menopausal age leave their jobs due to the symptoms that they suffer. In fact, one recent poll of 2,000 employees and 500 business owners revealed that 23 per cent of women who have been unwell as a result of the menopause have left their jobs. 

Employers often have little understanding of the difficulties surrounding the menopause and see this as a private matter, often not realising that women of menopausal age may need special consideration at work.

However, in a bid to end the silent stigma that has previously surrounded the topic, and create opportunities for colleagues to work through and beyond the menopause, enlightened businesses are instigating active menopause policies to support and retain affected employees.


A recent study showed that 41 per cent of women aged 50-60 said that the menopause had affected their job, but that 70 per cent did not tell their employer about their symptoms.

“This demonstrates the work that needs to be done to move beyond shame and silence to an open conversation about the menopause, because half the population will go through it,” said Dame Caroline Dinenage, the former Minister for Care, during a groundbreaking debate on the menopause in the House of Commons in 2019.

She added: “Giving better support to those women in work is not only right, but fundamentally good for the economy.”

In February 2022, the first meeting of the cross-governmental UK Menopause Taskforce took place in a bid to help women across the UK benefit from improved menopause support and care. It is looking at the role education and training, workplace policies and peer groups for menopausal women can play in supporting women.

Co-chair, Carolyn Harris MP, says: “Insufficient education and awareness of its impact alongside historic taboos around openly discussing its symptoms has meant that for too long women have suffered and struggled to access the help that they need.”

The business case for taking biological differences between men and women into account at work is clear. More than seventy-five percent of women of menopausal age are in work in the UK, and women over the age of 50 represent the fastest-growing segment of the workforce. Finding ways to support and retain this talent is crucial.

Millions are experiencing the menopause every year, with the majority experiencing symptoms that can be severe, such as low mood, anxiety, hot flushes and difficulty sleeping, and which have a negative impact on everyday life. One in four women will experience hot flushes during the menopause that will adversely affect their work. They include photographer Louise Hillgan, 53, who was in a meeting with a client when she felt the characteristic unpleasant and intense heat passing up through her body and into her neck and face.

“I felt like I was going to pass out, so I excused myself.” she said. “When I looked in a mirror, I saw that my skin was blotchy. I felt so embarrassed. It took ten minutes for the colour to subside and for my temperature to feel like it had returned to normal. A few weeks later, my sleep also started to become very disturbed as I would awake boiling hot. I started to feel very distracted at work. HRT has definitely helped but I’m still pretty unfocused in the afternoons.”

Many women also suffer recurrent lower urinary tract infections, such as cystitis, due to the changing hormonal environment, and feel the need to pass urine more frequently.

Raising issues such as these with colleagues can be challenging for many women, especially when their managers are male.

Case study

A lack of awareness in many workplaces continues to persist, which is where the benefits of a well thought-out Menopause Policy can pay dividends.

One example of a business leading in this area is ISS Facility Services, a facility management company offering security, cleaning, technical, food and workplace support. In 2022 they won RoSPA’s Initiative of the Year (UK) Award for their ‘Menopause Awareness Project’.

“As a business we want to do more than just provide a desk fan to help ease hot flushes and create a generic menopause policy, so we challenged ourselves to do more,” says Katherine Parsons, HSEQ Operations Manager, who was instrumental in developing the project after her partner Fi struggled with perimenopausal symptoms for four years. (Perimenopause is the period before menopause when oestrogen levels start to decrease.)

“I realised that if I was struggling with providing support, others will be experiencing the same situation. My role at work in health and safety meant I was concerned that maybe we had employees driving long distances after a poor night’s sleep due to night sweats or disturbed sleep patterns. People could be struggling to remember the details of work procedures and policies due to brain fog.

“As a company, we are acutely aware that the menopause is a difficult topic to discuss both as the symptomatic person, as well as the colleague or manager.

“As a business, we aim to address the complex issues around diversity, unconscious bias and menopause awareness in the workplace with professionalism and sensitivity.”

This is achieved by providing information and awareness training to managers and the ISS Mental Health First Aider Network.

A dedicated menopause SharePoint page captures the information in a single location accessible to all. This includes a video, a series of podcasts, blogs, and internal and external support resources.

“It is clear to us the magic to making people feel understood is to demonstrate we are approachable; we don’t shy away from these new terms, we are educated and open to any conversation, and can listen with understanding and empathy.”

Katherine says that the feedback received after each menopause presentation, podcast, LinkedIn post or successful award submission, adds to the momentum.

“Since the initial presentations, conversations with colleagues who have wanted to share their own menopause story have increased dramatically.

“Being open about the topic and saying the magic word ‘menopause’ is the key to allow others to feel safe to open up. Like mental health in recent years, it is now more socially acceptable to talk about it.”

Feedback from colleagues has ranged from pride in the company for breaking the taboo, to gratitude from individuals who now feel able to share their personal challenges with their line managers.

Recently achieved menopause goals for the business include the provision of temperature controlled ‘Respite Rooms’ in ISS’s larger offices, which means rooms or zones can be made cooler. Those in the company who have access to a private healthcare package with BUPA also receive menopause support through that, and there are hopes this can be widened to reach more employees. Katherine also aspires for the company to pay for employees’ HRT prescriptions where requested. This is a work in progress.

“Our key learning is that education and openness are the biggest tools we have as a business,” she says.

Offering support

In its guidance on Menopause at Work, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) points out that employers should have clear processes to support women coping with menopausal symptoms. Key elements of this support can include a commitment to supporting menopausal women; providing information about how staff can find support for issues arising from the menopause; and training for line managers, with an alternative contact being available if the line manager is male.

Further adjustments can include taking account of menopause in performance and sickness reviews; giving employees the option to take breaks if needed and allowing flexible hours when required due to menopausal symptoms. Risk assessments should also be carried out to ensure that the working environment will not exacerbate symptoms.

Katherine Parsons says: “Starting a conversation with your manager about menopause isn’t always easy, however once they are aware of your situation they can work with you on a tailored plan to support your personal situation.”

Jane Warren

Jane Warren is a highly experienced freelance journalist, feature writer and non-fiction author. She has written for the Daily Express newspaper for over thirty years.


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