World Menopause Day on 18 October each year hopes to raise awareness of menopause and the challenges it can bring.
Menopause in the workplace and employment
Women over 50 are the fastest growing demographic in the UK workplace, and 75-80% of women of menopausal age are in work. A survey in 2019 by CIPD and BUPA found that over half the women interviewed said their symptoms had made their work-life more challenging, and a quarter had contemplated leaving work because of their menopausal symptoms.
The Fawcett Report 2022, the largest UK survey (involving 4000 women aged between 45 and 55), found 44% reported that menopausal symptoms affected their ability to do their job and that 70% of women reported suffering from brain fog. Significant numbers also said they had lost motivation (61%) or confidence (52%) at work. It also found that 26% of women surveyed reported taking time off work because of menopause symptoms, but only 30% gave this as the true reason for their absence. This not only demonstrates the impact upon sickness levels but also that women feel unable to talk about it and access help or support.
Statistics like these, which correspond with colloquial evidence, make it clear that menopause and its symptoms have significant implications for individuals and employers alike, impacting engagement, retention, performance and sickness absence.
Given the taboo that has also surrounded menopause, much of the impact is still hidden, making it harder to address and support. Unfortunately, 80% of women in the Fawcett Report said their employers offered no form of support and 41% felt that their symptoms were not taken seriously.
World Menopause Day
Whilst individuals can have a variety of symptoms of menopause, the theme of World Menopause Day 2022 was cognition and mood. This theme focused on what is often called ‘menopause brain fog’.
‘Menopause brain fog’ is a group of symptoms around the time of menopause which can include:
- difficulty remembering words and numbers
- disruption in daily life (such as forgetting or misplacing things)
- trouble concentrating
- difficulty switching between tasks
- forgetting reasons for doing something
- forgetting appointments or events.
As you will appreciate, symptoms like this can significantly impact a woman’s personal and working life. Not to mention the many physical symptoms that menopause can also have.
What employers can do to help
Whether or not to have a specific menopause policy is a valid consideration here. Historically, many employers have felt that any issues the menopause and its symptoms may cause can be addressed through sickness absence management or performance management. However, more and more employers are now seeing the benefit of implementing a specific menopause policy which adopts a more awareness-raising, proactive and wellbeing-focused approach.
You can start implementing these actions today:
- raise awareness and its implications on staff
- set up a support group/appoint a champion
- educate managers, including how to talk about it
- ensure the impact is taken into consideration for performance management or sickness
- consider practical forms of support.