Guest blog Katie Day: The Menopause – why should organisations bother?
Katie Day: The Menopause – why should organisations bother?
Established and clear policies have been in existence for pregnant women and parental leave for many years. Ways of recording reasons for absence and supporting staff (via Employee Assistance Programmes for example) are well used. The menopause. Ah. Not so good there then! I find this puzzling. Not every woman will experience pregnancy, yet every woman, if she lives long enough, will experience the menopause. As we make up around 52% of the population, and around 57% of that number are of key menopausal age (between 40 and 65). That’s a lot of women who will go through this life transition!
It is estimated that absence due to menopause (where woman are not supported at work) represents a cost to the UK economy of around £7.3 million per year (1). According to the Government Report on Menopause, women at menopausal life phase are the fastest growing workforce demographic, and according to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine nearly 8 out of 10 peri- and post-menopausal women are in work. Women are lying. Around 75% of women say they do not feel confident to cite the menopause as the reason for their absence at work, so are reporting ‘other reasons’ for their absence. They feel really bad about doing this, which further exacerbates their feelings of vulnerability. Ensuring there is a supportive workplace culture is the responsibility of the organisation, not the responsibility of the women who work there. One in four women consider leaving their job during this life phase. Combine the above statistics with the legal requirements of employers to support and protect staff, this is a topic that cannot be ignored within the business community. When asked, women in the UK report the following menopausal experiences as just some that have a negative impact for them at work, there are others: (2)
- Irritability: 56%
- Poor concentration: 51%
- Tiredness: 51%
- Poor memory: 50%
Women want to talk with other women going through this life phase, to have more information. They want management awareness of the topic, combined with information and advice from their employer. They want access to support via training sessions and networks. Not all the responsibility lies with the employer of course. It is shared with the woman herself. We can all take ownership of our health and find out how we can best support ourselves, navigate this transition with the maximum ease and minimum stress and emerge stronger and even more resilient.
First and foremost we need to ‘normalise’ the conversation. What do I mean by this? Well, we all need to feel comfortable talking about ‘the M word’. If, as women, we are uncomfortable verbalising our experience(s), then it is pretty much guaranteed that people around us will also feel uncomfortable. The menopause is a natural part of life, and once we accept and embrace this life transition and see it for what it is – a temporary rite of passage, we are able to recognise that we can, to some degree, sail through rather than stumble through. Honest and open conversations are the key. We all need to acknowledge the important and valuable contribution women of menopausal age make to the business world. By ‘all’ I mean women themselves and their employers. To lose all that experience and expertise is simply bad business and poor workplace practice. With two employee tribunals (2012 and 2018),3 both of which went in favour of the claimant (menopausal woman), organisations ignore this issue at their peril. It is increasingly crucial that employers ensure they become, and remain, employers of choice – for everyone. ‘Everyone’ must not exclude women of menopausal age. We work with some truly wonderful organisations who have the courage to tackle this issue head on, brave enough to make the changes necessary and savvy enough to ensure they retain some of their best talent. Do you work for, or run, one of these organisations? Or is there room for improvement? Many of our clients are considering making our Supporting people during the menopause session mandatory for every manager they employ. More and more men within our client organisations are putting themselves forward to be a champion and a ‘point of contact’ for women. They encourage other men to learn, change and support. They are the benchmarks all people need to follow. Let us all embrace the strength and value of this time in a woman’s life, promote the wisdom, experience and expertise of women and collaborate to create an even more resilient and successful workplace.
Katie Day is a Director of RDP International Ltd firstname.lastname@example.org RDP International works with organisations on: leadership / communication / all matters ‘midlife’ www.rdp-int.com
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References: (1) Kleinman NL, et al. (2013) Direct and indirect costs of women diagnosed with menopause symptoms Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2013 Apr;55(4): 465-70 (2) Griffiths A, et al. (2013) Menopause and work: An electronic survey of employees’ attitudes in the UK Maturitas 76 (2013): 155– 159 (3) Merchant v BT plc (ET/1401305/11, 27 February 2012) Reported in below: Okill A (2017) Time to tackle the myths and taboos of the menopause in the workplace HR News (October 2017): http://hrnews.co.uk/time-tackle-myths-taboos-menopause-workplace/