This month we speak to Ann Stephens and Jo McEwan co-founders of digital platform PositivePause. They are actively engaged in the HR conversation across the UK and internationally, spearheading a movement to positively support menopausal women in the workplace.
For generations the shadow of menopause has silently affected women and their performance at work. Whilst there’s been fantastic progress on gender equality, the stigma and silence surrounding menopause continues. Alarming headlines in January 2022 shared the results of a survey by childcare provider Koru Kids. It reported over 1 million UK women could quit work because they lack access to menopause support. A staggering statistic for the 21st century workplace.
INFORM CHANGES IN MENOPAUSE POLICY
How are the government planning to support women so they remain in the workplace?
A cross-party taskforce is developing a national Women’s Health Strategy. It identifies ‘indicators’ relating to women’s health experiences. This includes their reproductive health and how it impacts them at work. The House of Commons women and equalities committee are currently taking evidence about women’s experience of going through menopause at work. Hearing from women, trade union representatives, businesses, and education support groups to help inform their recommendations. In considering the personal and economic impact on women who leave work due to menopause. The committee is looking at current employment laws, questioning if they are fit for purpose. They’re also looking at the case for introducing new laws, or reforming existing legislation.
MENOPAUSE AND EMPLOYMENT LAW
An employment lawyer told a recent hearing of the committee that there is a ‘lack of clarity’ over obligations by businesses to support those going through the menopause.
Menopause is not specifically covered by employment law. Its impact falls under the 2010 Equality Act on the grounds of discrimination. Under three protected characteristics: age, sex, and disability discrimination. Many employers are unaware of their duty under The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. To ensure they provide safe working conditions for those experiencing menopause and that symptoms are not exacerbated in the workplace.
WHY DOES MENOPAUSE IN THE WORKPLACE MATTER?
Menopause doesn’t discriminate against age!
Although the average age to go through menopause is 51, it can happen much sooner. 1 in 100 women under the age of 40 experience Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI). Early menopause can be due to illnesses such as endometriosis, a result of surgery, or from cancer treatment.
With an ageing population, 8 out of 10 menopausal women are currently working.
Symptoms may last 4-8 years, so it’s inevitable that this skilled and experienced cohort of employees are likely to work through their menopause. Managing the unique impact of often unexpected symptoms. With 1 in 4 women considering or leaving employment due to menopause, there is a business, social and economic case for supporting menopause as a workplace concern.
Maternity rights are protected under the Equality Act. Why isn’t this the case for menopause?
Maternity rights are rightly enshrined in the Equality Act. Whilst not all women will have a child, all working women are likely to experience menopause in their working life. The Koru Kids survey found that lack of support in the workplace was a factor in women’s decision to leave employment. Saying that menopause was only just behind having children in terms of the devastating impact it can have on their career. Every employee won’t need, welcome, or want menopause support from their employer. But those who do need it will welcome appropriate support in the workplace.
CHALLENGING MENOPAUSE DISCRIMINATION
As women become more menopause savvy, they are finding greater confidence to challenge their employers.
Data from employment tribunals show that menopause cases rose from 5 in 2018 to 16 in 2020. With 10 taking place in the first 6 months of 2021. Women are no longer prepared to be managed out of employment on capability grounds. And are increasingly challenging the workplace discrimination that may come with menopause.
HOW CAN EMPLOYERS SUPPORT MENOPAUSE IN THE WORKPLACE?
Forward-thinking employers are recognising the need to have open conversations within their organisation. Ensuring the right support is put in place to protect and retain this experienced part of their workforce. Awareness-raising, signposting and training helps join the dots for employers, line managers and employees. Ensuring everyone understands how and where to get support at work, when needed, helping to normalise an unavoidable health concern.
PositivePause menopause awareness training helps employers start conversations and adopt a supportive approach to bring about positive, practical change for individuals and the organisation. Please get in touch at email@example.com if you’d like to learn more about how we can help your organisation.