How often do we hear the phrase “the last taboo”, which often is a euphemism for the latest hot topic of the moment? The current last taboo seems to be the menopause. For me, what is interesting, is that if we were talking about a physical illness which could potentially impact on 50% of the workforce directly and, at some stage, 100% indirectly, would it be seen as a taboo?
The need to enable and support individuals experiencing the menopause is more pressing than ever. In a recent Health and Work Menopause Focuspublished by the Faculty of Occupational Health, it is stated that 75-80% of women of menopausal age are currently in work (1). Whilst the most well-known symptoms are hot flashes, night sweats, loss of libido and a foggy head, there are potentially up to 34 more (2).
The CIPD has various guides, including a factsheet entitled “Let’s talk menopause” (3), with the wonderful slogan “small things can make a big difference”. The 1% changes that will provide more than a 2% impact are often overlooked for what are considered to be higher profile approaches, which can fail due to sustainability. Starting small always allows for commitment, growth and success, whilst starting big allows for potential scepticism, retraction and failure. So, just starting with the question of what stops us talking about the menopause in workplace can help us to think about the 1% changes required that will fit culturally within our specific workplaces. Somewhere in the answer there may be stigma, which is so often driven by so little understanding, empathy, knowledge…
The menopause and impact on the workplace will, potentially, only increase, as it is estimated that by 2020 one in three British workers will be over the age of 50 (1). The menopause is covered under the Equality 2010 Act, and we are seeing menopause tribunal cases; the first one was Merchant vs BT(2012) (4). In Scotland, in 2018, the first menopause-related tribunal succeeded on the grounds of disability discrimination (4).
A possible second matter is how we can encourage the creation of menopause-friendly workplaces, which is no doubt underpinned by the breaking of stigma.
With the 1% approach in mind, and thinking about suggestions from the CIPD in its top priorities for people professionals (5), here are five small tipsthat can create an impact on both an individual and an organisational level:
- Review existing policies and procedures (“politicians are pushing for workplace policies that they believe should be as commonplace as maternity schemes” (6))
- Implement reasonable adjustments, which can be cost-effective and easy to implement and could include (7):
- Desk fans
- Uniforms with looser fabric and cooler footwear
- Readily available cold drinking water
- And, where possible, well-designed, supportive seating
- Empower and educate line managers
- Senior sponsorship – get the board ‘on board’
- Consider how to include the menopause within any existing training around mental health
To be able to listen non judgementally and signpost can be one of the most supportive and enabling approaches anyone can take. There are great organisations, (resources below), which will help to raise awareness and support.
There are some organisations who deal with the menopause and its impact head on and provide wonderful case studies including the University of Leicester and the West Midlands Police who have a Reasonable Adjustment Passport (RAP) (5).
When thinking about #MyMentalWealth, there are things I can do to support my experience with menopause; whether it is eating well, exercising, educating myself, talking to others — including talking about reasonable adjustments that will help me to thrive at work. Potentially, the pressure I may be experiencing can be reduced if I feel that there is an empathy and genuineness around what is going on for me; surely that is not too much to ask in 2019…
So, maybe at the next team meeting, a quick round of menopausal bingo could help to raise awareness — particularly if I am struggling to talk directly to my line manager who potentially is male and/or younger than me — or you could use the menopause lady(8) created by the West Midlands Police, which could also be placed on notice boards and other prominent places in an office.
And who knows what the next taboo will be?
References and Resources:
Faculty of Occupational Medicine: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56f2863127d4bda6c8f6f68d/t/5cab2dafe5e5f0b640cc0f0a/1554722224435/menowoman-pages-9.pdf
Meg’s Menopause – https://megsmenopause.com/symptoms/
CIPD: Let’s talk menopause https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/menopause
Henpicked: Menopause tribunals: what can employers learn https://menopauseintheworkplace.co.uk/employment-law/tribunals-employers-best-practice-2/
CIPD: The menopause at work, top priorities for people professionals https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/menopause-people-professionals-top-tips_tcm18-55428.pdf
The Daily Telegraph, Monday 26 August 2019 (page2)
Henpicked: What do working menopausal women want
Daisy Network – https://www.daisynetwork.org/
Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace – https://henpicked.net/
NHS guidance on menopause symptoms and treatment https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/
NICE guidance on menopause diagnosis and management https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng23
British Menopause Society (provides ‘education, information and guidance to healthcare professionals specialising in all aspects of post reproductive health’) https://thebms.org.uk/
Women’s Health Concern (the patient arm of the British Menopause Society) https://thebms.org.uk/
Talking Menopause (provides ‘seminars, coaching and individually tailored programmes helping organisations transform their culture and create menopause-friendly workplaces’) https://www.talkingmenopause.co.uk/
The Menopause Exchange (provides ‘independent advice about the menopause, midlife and post-menopausal health’) https://menopause-exchange.co.uk/
Menopause Matters (‘an independent website providing up-to-date, accurate information about the menopause, menopausal symptoms and treatment options’) https://www.menopausematters.co.uk/
Menopause Support (provides personal and business support) http://menopausesupport.co.uk/
Meg’s Menopause (‘an open source of information and advice dedicated to empowering women through an honest and frank discussion of all things menopause’) https://megsmenopause.com/
Menopause Café – https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/menopause