Menopause at work: A guide for people managers and HR teams

Menopause at work: A guide for people managers and HR teams

Menopause at Work News

Employers risk being sued if they fail to make “reasonable adjustments” for menopausal women in the workplace, according to new guidance issued in February 2024. The EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) has issued this guidance to companies to update employers on their legal obligations.

What’s more, this update provides more clarity to employers on how they can stay HR complaint and it’s important that employers work closely with their outsourced HR services provider or in-house team as well as listening to their own employers closely in able to support them effectively.

The EHRC state “If menopause symptoms have a long term and substantial impact on a woman’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, these symptoms could be considered a disability. If menopause symptoms amount to a disability, an employer will be under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments.”

What’s more, women experiencing menopause symptoms should have further protections against direct and indirect discrimination as well as harassment and victimisation on the grounds of their gender and age.

Reasonable adjustments could include changes to uniform policy, fans on desks, more regular breaks or flexible working. Use our article index to explore more or view our menopause guide here:

Article Index

Menopause at work

We previously released a brief guide on managing the symptoms of the menopause at work. Today we’re sharing more ways to help your team with a focus on management tips and HR responsibilities.

The CIPD found that 3 in 5 menopausal women were negatively affected at work with BUPA sharing that almost 900K women in the UK have left their jobs due to menopausal symptoms.

The EHRC have cited research that 1 in 10 women surveyed were forced to leave their jobs due to menopause symtpoms.

First up here’s a recap on how you can support people going through menopause.

Want some HR advice? Speak to our friendly team

The effect of menopause symptoms at work 

The CIPD has found that two thirds (67%) of working women between the ages of 40-60 who have experienced menopause symptoms have also seen a negative impact on their work:

  • 79% saw a difference in their ability to concentrate
  • 68% saw their stress increase
  • 49% felt less patient with clients & colleagues
  • 46% felt less physically able to carry out work tasks.

Many of those surveyed were worried they wouldn’t be able to work in future due to their symptoms.

How to manage the effects of the menopause at work

  • HR menopause policy– By developing a policy you can help your whole team to understand more about menopause symptoms, how these can affect people individually and what support is available. You should also look at your overall sick leave policy to ensure this supports individuals whilst ill or returning to work and how to reduce stress-related leave too.
  • Leadership skills – Support people managers, by using leadership development, to help them deal with situations with empathy in a sensitive and fair manner, and crucially to ensure they are aware of menopause symptoms and their effects.
  • Working environment – Consider solutions such as temperature control and cool beverages, this is also something which pregnant employees may find useful.
  • Flexible working arrangements – Help women to manage their symptoms by allowing working from home days when their symptoms are severe. Flexibility around hospital appointments reduces the stress of arranging time off. Read more about the flexible working bill here.
  • Make space to rest – Consider designated areas to allow people to rest temporarily. This reduces burnout across the whole team. There are many wellbeing strategies you can use to help everyone.
  • Understand your HR obligations – Ensure your HR team are up-to-date with HR legislation and that you plan ahead to reduce the risk of discrimination at work and other HR challenges which can arise.

You can explore more general tips in our Brief guide to the menopause at work article here.

It’s important to note that whilst there is a stigma surrounding the menopause it doesn’t have to be seen as a purely negative experience, especially when people have the right support in place.

Some experience a rise in confidence, and as hormones settle this can lead to higher energy levels, improved sleep and positivity.

People Manager Tips: Menopause at work

Managers have a strong influence over their people’s wellbeing and productivity at work.

Providing constructive feedback, building trust & empathy, and giving your people the right support (including finding time to listen), all play a role in stress reduction and getting the most out of your people.

Menopause symptoms can be distressing for women and can affect their mental wellbeing due to a change in hormones, symptoms can include anger, irritability and poor concentration all of which can affect their working relationships and performance at work.

Here’s some ways you can help your team when they are experiencing menopausal symptoms:

1) Understand menopause symptoms

It’s hard to lead with compassion and empathy if you don’t understand what people are going through. Attend a menopause webinar, spend time with your HR team and really listen to your teammates.

2) Build trust

People may not feel comfortable approaching their manager to discuss difficulties especially if their manager is younger than them.

You can’t always influence what your people are willing to share with you. However, by building trust and openly signposting to external support, this encourages an open culture where people are more likely to share their concerns.

Open conversations also help to reduce the stigma. The stigma around menopause can particularly effect LGBTQ+ individuals and ethnic minority women.

3) Ask about individual needs

It’s important across the board to find out how best to support your team, whether that’s introducing accommodations for neurodivergent teammates, understanding your people through psychometric assessments, or supporting a pregnant teammate.

Menopause symptoms effect everyone individually, so work with them to find ways to improve their working environment, create flexible working arrangements and explore other options too.

4) Dealing with conflict

A lack of confidence, stress and fatigue can also effect people experiencing the menopause, this means you may need to help with:

  • Imposter syndrome

Low confidence compounds the effect of procrastination and makes it harder to tackle tasks. Look at sessions to help people manage their own thought cycles, it’s important to help them to support themselves too.

  • Anger and irritability

A good workplace culture is critical in your business; stress is shown to be contagious. Mindfulness as well as creative outlets are just a few ways you can help your people to channel their symptoms in a healthy way.

  • Lack of concentration

The symptoms of ‘brain fog’ can affect performance which makes adequate breaks important. It also helps to offer support for problem solving on tasks so people feel less isolated.

5) Supporting additional teammates

Here are teammates who can also be affected by the menopause or related conditions:

  • Trans and non-binary teammates may experience menopausal symptoms and may find it difficult to raise these with their manager. Consider ways to make menopause support inclusive.
  • Partners or teammates – People close to those experiencing menopausal symptoms can be affected by proxy, ensure you are there to listen and look for changes in their behaviour to see if they need additional support from you.
  • ‘Male Menopause’ – Sometimes described as the andropause symptoms can include depression or mood swings. Ensure men’s health, both physical and mental health, is also addressed in the workplace.
  • Perimenopause – Perimenopause is the transition period before menopause and carries a heightened risk for depressive symptoms as well as clinical and subclinical depressive disorders. 1 in 100 women also experience premature menopause. It’s important to not just take age into account.

6) Maintain confidentiality

It’s paramount that you maintain confidentiality if the conversation around the menopause comes up. It’s worth speaking to your HR team to ensure you stay compliant as a manager.

7) Understanding rehiring costs

Oxford Economics showed in 2019 that if a woman earning £25K left her job it would take £30.5K to replace her. Therefore, it’s another reason to try and retain staff where possible and avoid loss of talent.

At Talk Staff we support people managers with development as well as offering coaching around imposter syndrome, communication & conflict and how to have a wellbeing conversation.

The role of HR: Menopause at work

We’ve already discussed the importance of having a robust and visible menopause policy at work, here are some of the other things you’ll want to consider.

Risk assessments – Carry out a risk assessment on the working environment for the individual experiencing menopause symptoms, looking at everything from ventilation to drinks to accessible toilet facilities. Make reasonable adjustments whilst considering H&S and the comfort of other teammates.

Sick Leave – We recently explored sickness at work and how to reduce absences. There are ways you can reduce sick leave by offering flexible working, allowing regular breaks, and reducing stress at work.

Where sick leave due to severe menopausal symptoms is unavoidable, ensure good communication to encourage a smooth return-to-work process. Above all ensure you remain compliant and encourage your team to be honest about their reasons for taking time off.

Discrimination in the workplace – Discrimination in the workplace has led to an increase in the number of cases proceeding to the courts although these are limited due to funding. The extent of the problem with menopause discrimination at work was found to be ‘widespread and shocking.’

Ensure your team understand what appropriate behaviour and action is in these cases, particularly around disciplinary and dismissals.

Disciplinary proceedings – Unfortunately menopausal symptoms when impacting performance are leading to capability and disciplinary proceedings. You need to be careful during these to consider mitigating circumstances and keep any process fair. In the case of redundancy consider alternatives such as part time work.

In addition, be careful to avoid constructive dismissal as unfair processes can lead to breaches of employment law and lead to court cases.

Menopause and the law – The Equality Act 2010 which protects workers against discrimination and the Health and Safety at Work act should both be taken into account, although the menopause is not a specific protected characteristic, being treated less favourably could result in a claim to the employment tribunal, especially if age discrimination, sex or disability forms part of the complaint.

Menopause at your work

October is World Menopause Awareness Month with October 18th being World Menopause Awareness Day. It’s a great time to review all that we’ve covered above and more, particularly in your HR team. If you need further support do give us a call.

Please note that the information in this blog was created based on the integrity of reputable links at the time of publishing. These blogs should be used for guidance only, you should always check information further before taking action as sources may update over time. Talk Staff holds no responsibility for implementation or loss

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Last Updated on 3 months by Hannah Ingram

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Last Updated on 3 months by Hannah Ingram