A subject that recently hit the headlines when the BBC Breakfast launched their menopause campaign, many will simply have no idea how dealing with the menopause at work can affect women.
With symptoms of the menopause ranging from difficulty sleeping to headaches and hot flushes, it is no wonder that some women struggle at work.
Understanding and supporting women through this time in their life is as important as supporting and employee through bereavement or mental illness but because it only affects women and is rarely talked about, it has never been a subject that has been dealt with particularly well in the past.
There are no employment laws specifically relating to how to treat an employee going through the menopause but there is guidance which can prove helpful. Remember, supporting an employee through the menopause could encompass all kinds of other areas such as sickness absence and discrimination.
There are two main strands of law that may relate to the perimenopause and menopause:
- The Equality Act 2010 protects workers against discrimination. This includes sex, a disability and age
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 says an employer must, where reasonably practical, ensure health, safety and welfare at work
In fact, in an Employment Tribunal, menopause symptoms have been accepted to be a disability.
Why Should you Handle the Menopause Sensitively?
Estimates suggest that 1 in 8 women in the workplace are over the age of 50 and by 2022, that number is estimated to reach 1 in 6.
Most women over 50 will have, or have had, perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms that affect their work. For one in three, the symptoms will be severe.
Advice recently given by ACAS and which can be found here includes
- Ensuring menopausal symptoms are not made worse by the workplace and/or its work practices
- Making changes to help a worker manage their symptoms when doing their job
- Not including sickness absence for menopausal reasons in the overall sickness absence record of an employee (and therefore not applying typical sanctions such as warnings if absence would otherwise reach a particular trigger point).
- Providing and employee with the opportunity to talk to a manager, team leader or other person in the business about their symptoms
- Make reasonable adjustments to the environment (i.e. provide a fan or allow home working where appropriate) to support staff through the menopause
Of course, it’s also important to equip Managers and Directors with sufficient information and knowledge to enable them to support their colleagues too.
The Simple Take Is: Handle issues with care and compassion and you can’t go far wrong.