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It's critical that employees are given the support they need to stay healthy and succeed at work. Menopause, while being a natural stage of life, remains a taboo topic for many. Our July Supporters’ Network Event discussed how employers can better support those who are affected – whether they’re experiencing symptoms themselves or are offering professional or personal support to others. We discussed what the Menopause is, how to recognise the symptoms, and why employers need to develop relevant support strategies. This blog summarises the key points from the event and ends with a list of relevant resources and video recording.


What is Menopause? What are the symptoms?

By 2022, it's estimated that 1 in 6 women in our population will be over the age of 50. With the prospect of this ageing workforce to come, employers need to feel prepared to offer support to older workers – and Menopause forms a large part of this.


Menopause is a natural stage in life for women which happens between the ages of 45-54, and symptoms typically last up to 4 years but can last significantly longer. The average age for a woman to go through the Menopause is 51. However, women can suffer from early menopause under the age of 45, which can happen naturally or be due to chromosome abnormalities, genetics, or procedures such as hysterectomies and chemotherapy.


Symptoms can include hot flushes, disturbed sleep, memory loss, anxiety and depression. There are also associated risks during Menopause with conditions such as osteoporosis – with 1 in 3 women ending up with a fracture. Treating Menopause as a long-term health condition, as opposed to a productivity issue in the workplace, is a good place to start to ensure that affected employees will be provided with the appropriate support.


What can employers do to support those affected?

Understanding the information above is key to bring that extra level of awareness to the table – and show that as an employer, you are aware of what people in your organisation are going through. There are also business benefits to addressing Menopause – recruitment and retention of women of all ages will be higher, and overall business reputation improved. Addressing the health impacts of older workers will make your organisation more attractive to older talent in general, in which there is a huge untapped pool of talent.


There are a number of appropriate adjustments that can be made. For example, small fixes can be investing in fans or hand fans for the workplace, greater flexibility in schedules, and regular breaks in long meetings. Employers can also develop more embedded support – for example by adding Menopause as a reason for absence on HR systems, establishing how seriously it is being taken as a health concern.


But to start developing policies in your own organisation, it is important first to have conversations with your colleagues. This can be facilitated by ensuring line managers are trained on this topic, particularly male ones, so these conversations can be had. Ensuring that managers can broach these conversations respectfully, and have the confidence to ask questions in the right way, is crucial.


Also, developing a Menopause support group will create a safe space for people to share their experiences, suggest suitable adjustments for the workplace, and create a spot for sharing resources – such as books, tv programmes, and podcasts that might help others. Developing a support group also ensures that employees know that Menopause is being taken seriously, and that it is encouraged to have open conversations on this topic, and to discuss needed adjustments. Suggestions from the group could then mould future policies, to ensure they’re the right fit for your organisation.


What is the available treatment for Menopause?

There are a number of available treatments for the Menopause, the most widely known being HRT – hormone replacement therapy. This can rebalance hormone levels and prove effective, however, there are implications worth researching before going forward with this treatment.


Those affected should see a GP, but it is important to do some research first on the available treatments. Many women are misdiagnosed when stating symptoms and so receive incorrect treatment, so ensuring that symptoms are recognised as menopausal will ensure a smoother treatment process.   


CBT can help with low moods, anxiety and depression – and there are a number of herbal remedies and vitamins to take that can lessen the impact of the Menopause. Keeping a good level of general physical and mental health, a good diet and a focus on mindfulness and breathing – are also things that can help with the symptoms.


Staying knowledgeable on the topic, and offering support and conversations where possible will ensure that women are supported in the workplace – through all stages of their life.