Katie Day is a Director of RDP International Ltd and runs workshops for women on the menopause (Menopause Demystified) and for companies on how to support women through this life transition as well as consultancy on workplace best practice. Here Katie shares some hidden truths about the menopause and how much of an impact it really can have on women in the workplace.
Policies and guidelines around mental health are in place. Established and clear policies have been in existence for pregnant women and parental leave for many years. Ways of recording reasons for absence and supporting staff (via Employee Assistance Programmes for example) are well used. The menopause. Ah. Not so good there then!
I find this puzzling. Not every woman will experience pregnancy, yet every woman will experience the menopause. As we make up around 52% of the population, that’s a lot of people who will go through this life transition!
It is estimated that absence due to menopause (where woman are not supported at work) represents a cost to the UK economy of around £7.3 million per year. One in four women consider leaving their job during this time. According to the Government Report on Menopause, women at menopausal life phase are the fastest growing workforce demographic, and according to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine nearly 8 out of 10 peri and post-menopausal women are in work.
Combine the above statistics with the legal requirements of employers to support and protect staff, this is a topic that cannot be ignored within the business community.
When asked, women in the UK report the following menopausal experiences as just some that have a negative impact for them at work, there are others:
- Irritability: 56%
- Poor concentration: 51%
- Tiredness: 51%
- Poor memory: 50%
Women want to talk with other women going through this life phase, to have more information. They want management awareness of the topic, combined with information and advice from their employer. They want access to support via training sessions and networks.
Not all the responsibility lies with the employer of course. It is shared with the woman herself. We can all take ownership of our health and find out how we can best support ourselves, navigate this transition with the maximum ease and minimum stress and emerge stronger and even more resilient.
First and foremost we need to ‘normalise’ the conversation. What do I mean by this? Well, we all need to feel comfortable talking about ‘the M word’. If, as women, we are uncomfortable verbalising our experience(s), then it is pretty much guaranteed that people around us will also feel uncomfortable. The menopause is a natural part of life, and once we accept and embrace this life transition and see it for what it is – a temporary rite of passage, we are able to recognise that we can, to some degree, sail through rather than stumble through.
Honest and open conversations are the key. We all need to acknowledge the important and valuable contribution women of menopausal age make to the business world. By ‘all’ I mean women themselves and their employers. To lose all that experience and expertise is simply bad business and poor workplace practice.
With two employee tribunals (2012 and 2018), both of which went in favour of the claimant (menopausal woman), organisations ignore this issue at their peril. It is increasingly crucial that employers ensure they become, and remain, employers of choice – for everyone. ‘Everyone’ must not exclude women of menopausal age.
Let us all embrace the strength and value of this time in a woman’s life, promote the wisdom, experience and expertise of women and collaborate to create an even more resilient and successful workplace.
Katie Day is a Director of RDP International Ltd. RDP International works with organisations on: leadership / communication / all matters ‘midlife’.