What is menopause?
The menopause is when a woman stops having periods. While this natural stage of ageing tends to happen around the age of 45 to 55, some women experience it earlier in life. Certain health conditions, as well as medical interventions and medication, can also trigger it.
When going through the menopause (or the period just before it which is known as perimenopause) women experience symptoms such as:
- Hot flushes
- Repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mood changes
- Difficulties with memory and concentration (often referred to as “brain fog”)
What do studies show?
According to Newson health (a specialist clinic) 51% of menopausal women take time off work due to their severe symptoms.
The report published by the cross-party Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons in July 2022 also confirmed that menopause was causing the UK economy to “haemorrhage talent”.
The existing data highlights why women feel concerned about their difficulties. Many of them fear discrimination, ranging from being skipped for promotion to losing their jobs. Under the circumstances, they might deny what they are going through, and avoid seeking support.
What has the government done?
The report from the Committee made various recommendations, key amongst which was making menopause a protected characteristic and including a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees.
The government however has refused to do so on the grounds that such an action could have “unwanted consequences” and could inadvertently “…discriminate against men”. In clarifying, some of the concerns surrounded whether men with long-term medical conditions would be disadvantaged or become less protected.
Among the other recommendations made by the Committee was the introduction of menopause leave under which a woman would be able to take leave from work if they were suffering from severe menopausal symptoms, similar to being able to take maternity or parental leave.
In common with the protected characteristic proposal, this was also rejected by the government.
In response, a government spokesperson said: “We recognise that the menopause can be a challenging time for women, which is why we have put women’s health at the top of the agenda as part of the first-ever women’s health strategy for England.
“We are implementing an ambitious programme of work with the NHS to improve menopause care so all women can access the support they need.”
Despite the government not backing some of the recommendations made by the Committee, it has backed and will implement other recommendations made. It is also widely accepted that there has been a shift in attitudes generally and discussions are taking place within businesses, the NHS and other relevant bodies which is pushing these issues to the forefront. Furthermore, employees that are having issue due to the menopause may be protected within the Equality Act under both age and gender discrimination.
Despite the government refusing to go as far as some may have wanted, a menopause policy within the workplace is looking more and more essential to guide employers and managers on how to deal with such situations.
At Aston Bond, we can advise on policies to implement and training for employers as well as advising employees who may be experiencing issue at work surrounding this topic. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 01753 486777