Featuring Female Health: Managing Menopause in the workplace.
"For far too long the menopause has been an issue shrouded in secrecy, resigned to whispered conversations between women, or jokes about hot flushes if even discussed at all... Menopausal women are facing some real challenges in the workplace, and employers are not really sure what to do to best support them. More and more women are working on well into their 50s and 60s so it's an issue that employers are going to have to look at much more closely."
~Sharon Edwards, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) Women's Committee Chair~
Hi there, reader. Welcome to a new series that I wanted to get up and run on all women's health. Many individuals have heard of menopause and know that it has something to do with female health. Yet, many still do not understand what changes a woman's body undergoes and how it can be uncomfortable, exhausting, and at times painful. So today, DJM will be walking through what menopause is and what happens to a woman's body as she goes through it. Employers should be trained and made aware of the symptoms of menopause and how they can become female health/ menopause confidant employers.
What happens to the body during menopause?
The average age of women undergoing menopause is between 45-55 years, and in the UK, it is 51. Some women experience menopause before the age of 40, which is known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency. There is a range of symptoms that women can experience, and the severity or intensity of these symptoms differs between women. Much like the statement that no snowflake is alike, no two women will have the same menopause experience- it is different for all of them. Whilst many women go through menopause naturally, for some, it can be induced by surgery or illness.
According to the NHS website, the following are some of the symptom's women must look out for if they believe they are experiencing menopause:
However, there are many other listed symptoms that women can experience, including:
These are the physical symptoms that occur while women are undergoing internal hormonal changes. This is a big transition in a woman's life. According to menopauseintheworkplace.co.uk, menopausal women are becoming the fastest-growing demographic in the workforce over the last few years. According to the NOS [National Office of Statistics], 1/3 of workers in the United Kingdom are over 50, and half of them are individuals who can menstruate. The current UK workforce is ageing, and menopausal women are not accommodated and aren't openly discussed in training courses and workshops.
Menopause in the workplace?
Women are working in more significant numbers, more than ever before. 70% of women are in employment, though this number may be even higher now. Currently, women make up 47% of the workforce. Discussing menopause and transitioning into it is an important matter, as female health is often ignored or swept under the rug as something that women have to deal with. Under the Equality Act of 2010, menopausal women are protected under three characteristics: age, sex and disability. They are also protected under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which extends to menopausal women in various experiences. Many employers are starting to create policies that address menopausal women, the support, leave and complaints systems set up for them via their HR departments.
The government has released an equality and employment report entitled Menopause Transition: Effects on Women's Economic Participation. If you want to look at this report yourself, it will be linked right at the end of this article. Using this article, this blog will be looking at a few things concerning menopause in the workplace.
According to the government report, the dimensions of a woman's life are examined from a biopsychocultural approach, which means including her attitude towards ageing and her lifestyle understanding broader psychological and social contacts that may affect the way she runs her household, for example, or the way she is in the workplace and also taking into consideration any child-rearing responsibilities that she may have.
The United Kingdom government has identified a few studies of women being unable to look for a job [these will be listed at the end of the government report], reducing their working hours, identifying in a complaints system about their workplace discrimination and difficulties of receiving a positive outcome. However, none of these issues is related to the transition and progression of a career within a workplace.
The report extensively discusses how women treat and handle their symptoms. Overwhelmingly, menopausal women conceal and try to manage their symptoms at work on an individual level. The government has highlighted gendered ageism as an issue in the workplace, as many women have cited that their colleagues are unsympathetic or Other them.
What employers can do to support women in transition to menopause
The government has cited that certain working conditions can worsen symptoms, and if these concerns are ever highlighted, they should be addressed instead of ignored. Environments that are too hot, poorly ventilated, or do not have accessibility lifts and areas can cause women to feel isolated.
Many men of a similar age to women undergoing the menopausal transition are in senior positions. They cannot sympathise with the certain difficulties and the severities of the symptoms they can bring on. These women do not have a receptive and inclusive workforce reporting system that openly regards the complaints or issues they raise.
One way for employers to improve is to ensure they create an open environment for honest discourse. This has been said repeatedly in blog posts because open and honest communication is key to ensuring you can empathise with an individual who is uncomfortable in the workplace. If possible, workplaces should implement specialist external executives to handle any physical and psychological health issues, letting HR departments take these issues may not be equipped, knowledgeable enough or trained to deal with such matters.
Menopause does affect the women going through the physical transition…
Women who have partners have recognised that their symptoms can affect their partners. In the government survey, women's partners were referencing fatigue and exhaustion due to staying up or waking up when their partner did due to any menopausal symptoms. So whether any adjustments are required by the individual going through the physical transition themselves, or whether it is their partner, they should not have to mute or hide the difficulties that are inflicted
Stay in tune for the complimentary podcast that is coming. We will be going into even more detail about the issues of menopause and how it can affect women, and what should be done to help them.