The number of Menopausal women in the workplace in increasing. So what are organisations doing about this?
For some, nothing at all. But fortunately, some forward-thinking, inspirational organisations are taking great leaps in the area of menopause in the workplace. Network Rail, the University of Leicester, Carnival UK and Severn Trent are amongst these and now the first NHS organisation Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation also joining the ranks.
What I’ve discovered while working with these organisations is that awareness, training and the right support is proving to be a huge benefit to colleagues and organisations alike. The support and guidance of their Occupational health professionals has been key to this, and we regularly refer to the FOM guidance document and infographic.
Working with the University of Leicester to introduce menopause in the workplace guidance and policy was a great experience for me, with everyone really getting on board. Their Occupational Health Manager Cathy Howells told me:
‘My initial thought was, the menopause, is that really a priority in staff health. But since we’ve launched the menopause policy it’s been incredibly positive. It’s raised awareness of what women can experience during the transition, and the range of symptoms that can get in the way of work as well as life. This has enabled us to put the right support in place and train line managers. And we’ve continued to talk about menopause openly.'
I was delighted to hear this. And once the campaigns launched, talking about menopause became a more natural and easier discussion to have.
Carnival UK launched its menopause campaign as part of its Women’s Health Month in May, supporting its key organisational values: to be a hero of safe and well.
Claire Buckingham, senior manager, occupational health and wellbeing at Carnival UK, told me: ‘Whilst educating and supporting staff everyone was talking about their own experiences which helped other women who were also having menopause symptoms. It must have been a comfortable environment to allow women to feel this way.’
Talking to Occupational Health Advisor Rosalyn Jones, here are our top tips for Occupational Health professionals:
- Get involved in developing your own workplace policies or guidance documents and risk assessments with your HR teams.
- Understand what menopause is, its symptoms, how it can affect a woman at work and what reasonable adjustments work for each symptom.
- Make sure you’re clear on signposting to the relevant people and organisations. This would start with suggesting a woman see her GP if she’s experiencing symptoms, but would also include offering access to reliable, fact-based information sources.
- Review how what’s already in place supports menopausal women, every organisation’s policies, practices and roles are different. Policies like flexible working, absence and sickness and EAP providers are already a support but may need adjusting.
- Understand what reasonable adjustments look like. Examples of possible reasonable adjustments include flexible working, access to desk fans and the organisation’s employee support line.
- Be prepared to talk to line managers and HR professionals. Most have very little knowledge, or only personal experience, yet they play a vital support role. They may need more support initially understanding how to support a woman or what reasonable adjustments would be the most appropriate.
I found that some occupational health teams were concerned about an increased workload as a result of a new policy or awareness guide. But our experience is that this isn’t the case – there haven’t been queues of referrals as a result. And those that have been referred are the ones that were right to refer.
I’d like to leave you with a final comment from Dr Richard Peters, Chief Medical Officer at Network Rail. “As sponsor of our Menopause Awareness Project and having looked at our own demographics, it highlighted the importance of this topic and how it can closely link with employee retention and attrition. Organisations must not forget the impact these symptoms and associated co-morbidities can have on productivity, wellbeing and most importantly safety. It is important that all Occupational Health Clinicians, Managers and Staff are educated on this topic, understand the importance of reasonable adjustments and help to break the associated stigma around menopause. This will help organisations be more diverse, inclusive and supportive.’
Deborah Garlick, Henpicked: Menopause In The Workplace