The menopause can be an extremely difficult time in a woman’s life and it’s something that cannot be ignored no matter what size of company you’re operating and within which industry. It’s still a relatively taboo subject, but the fact of the matter is, as we speak, there are approximately 4.4 million aged 50 – 64 in the workplace. The average age of the menopause is 61, however, it may occur as early as the 30’s or as late as the 60’s. And so, if you have women in this age bracket, employed within your workplace, you should be prepared for this and have a policy in place to help support them at what can be, an extremely difficult time.
What’s more, women of this age tend to be at the peak of their skills and career and so it’s important to make sure you support them. Moreover, there is a strong health and safety as well as a legal case for taking the menopause at work seriously. These women tend to suffer in silence as they are too embarrassed to talk about their issues, however, there are a variety of small, yet practical adjustments you can offer to make the world of difference to those women experiencing what can often be somewhat uncomfortable symptoms associated with the menopause.
As a first step, it’s important you educate yourself on the subject of the menopause. Most women will experience some or all of the below symptoms. In fact, three out of four women will experience symptoms and one in four will be seriously affected by them. And, what’s more, these symptoms can last anywhere up to five years which is an extremely long time. Symptoms are both physiological and psychological and can include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Difficulty sleeping/insomnia
- Difficulty concentrating/focussing
- Low mood or anxiety
- Increased risk of contracting a urinary tract infection
- Joint stiffness, aches and pains
- Increased risk of developing osteoporosis
MAKING REASONABLE ADJUSTMENTS
Any organisation which employees individuals of this age needs to take the above symptoms and the issues associated with them, into consideration – You should understand the symptoms, the potential impact of the work environment and as a result, provide any support required. They should essentially be treated in the same way as any other medical condition. Low-cost reasonable adjustments can make a huge difference to both the employee and your business.
Your existing absence management policies and procedures should highlight the menopause as a potential long-term and fluctuating condition and therefore should be treated as such, with support in place, should it be required by the employee.
As you can see from the above list, a variety of the symptoms actually relate to health and safety, including joint stiffness and pain, low mood, hot flushes and the risk of osteoporosis. As a result, you should undertake a detailed risk assessment/audit to help manage or prevent these physical and psychological conditions.
Your performance management process is in place for a reason – As we’ve noted before, in previous articles, effective performance management shouldn’t just ‘happen’ once a year at an employee’s annual appraisal. Instead, it is an ongoing and positive system which focuses on helping everyone perform to the best of their ability.
If you are noticing a dip in performance and the fact it could be related to the menopause, you need to tackle the issue immediately and offer support, guidance and/or training to rectify any issues the individual is experiencing at work. Part of this is ensuring all business leaders, middle and line managers receive training on the subject and are equipped to notice issues and make any necessary adjustments.
Your overall company culture has a big part to play in supporting women experiencing the menopause. These employees need to feel supported and included not made to feel awkward or ostracised. By simply creating a policy as part of existing absence management policies and suchlike, will actively promote the fact that you are taking the subject seriously – After all, the menopause shouldn’t be a taboo subject because as we all know, it will come to all women at some point in their lives.
Ensure you encourage open conversations and an open culture with support at the ready to embrace an older feamle workforce. Women should know you actively support this issue and they should know where to find the information on where they can get help. It could be you offer occupational health support or encourage the engagement of women’s networks. You may already have in place health and well-being champions and promote health and well-being as part of your business culture.
Whatever you do, make sure you create an environment of openness and transparency where your employees feel comfortable addressing issues such as the menopause as well as any other taboo subjects. Raise awareness and ensure that you create relevant policy documents and these are communicated effectively and easily accessible to your employees. Your staff should feel 100% comfortable talking to their line-managers and ensure you make reasonable adjustments, because tackling these types of issues, really can be a win-win for all.
If you need any help with creating your menopause policy document, or tackling any of the aforementioned issues surrounding this subject, please don’t hesitate to contact us now on: 01453 297557 or email email@example.com.