Menopause – fostering awareness and understanding in the workplace
It is estimated that 600,000 Irish women are affected by perimenopause or menopause at any one time with many in employment. But menopause still seems to a taboo subject as many women are reluctant to discuss it with their employers. Research carried out last year found that 37% of affected women said they missed work because of their symptoms and 87% uncomfortable telling their line manager the reason why.
In addition to experiencing the symptoms of menopause, it can have a significant impact on a person’s life, including work. Physical and emotional changes such as memory loss, difficulty sleeping, tiredness, anxiety, headaches and depression can result in a loss of confidence in the workplace.
World Menopause Day on 18th October is an opportunity to raise awareness of menopause and help provide an understanding of the health issues associated with the various stages of menopause. It is an opportunity for Irish employers to help and support female employees while raising awareness throughout their organisation and ensuring the appropriate supports are in place.
What can employers do?
Apart from risks associated with doing nothing, which are outlined later, employers who invest in Health & Safety and Diversity & Inclusion initiatives put themselves at an advantage. Employers who demonstrate that they support and value the contribution of all employers are less likely to struggle with retention and recruitment.
Create positive messaging and information – Promoting awareness of menopause and the associated symptoms and impacts, provides better understanding of its impacts in the workplace and how best to support employees. It also helps create an environment where conversations are respectful and open.
Implement initiatives to support employees, which could include setting up menopause groups to provide information on what is available within the business, such as Employee Assistance Programmes.
Menopause policy - Develop a menopause policy setting out the organisation’s approach to employees experiencing menopausal symptoms, the responsibilities of employees and managers, and the supports those employees can expect to receive.
Supportive working practice – review your wellbeing and health policies to allow for flexible working, check that your sickness absence procedures allow time off if needed for health appointments, look at the facility of more breaks to help your employees during this time of their menopausal transition.
Considerations for employers
Apart from the impact menopause can have on an employee’s performance, there are legal issues that can emerge in respect of discrimination on grounds of gender, disability and/or age under the Employment Equality Acts. The Act also provides protections for persons accessing or in the workplace that have a disability. In some instances, menopausal symptoms may be classified as meeting the definition of a disability. Therefore, an employer should agree appropriate accommodations with the employee.