We’ve come a long way from treating the menopause as taboo, something to be whispered about awkwardly among a few female family members in the relative safety of a bedroom.
And there’s no longer quite the stigma attached to it. It’s become a lot more widespread across the media, with people sharing experiences and expertise. But a lot of misunderstanding about this major lifestyle change still remains, from the average age of onset, the range of symptoms and the types of available treatments. For a lot of individuals, it can be a difficult transition. Everyone is different and no two women will experience the menopause in quite the same way.
Some may experience difficulty concentrating or memory loss (brain fog) severe migraines or chronic insomnia while others may just experience the odd hot flush. It’s therefore inevitable that some symptoms can make it difficult for menopausal individuals to perform their usual roles at work. Exhaustion from sleep deprivation, embarrassment, anxiety or physical discomfort can all play a part.
Fastest-growing workplace demographic
With menopausal women being one of the fastest growing demographics in the UK workforce according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), it’s become increasingly important for employers to introduce a policy to support those going through the menopause.
Rachel Western, principal at Aon, says: “Last year, joint research by CIPD and Bupa revealed that nearly one million women had to leave work due to ‘uncomfortable’ menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, anxiety and night sweats, while those who stayed in employment took an average of 32 weeks’ sick leave relating to difficult symptoms”.
“It’s likely that the number of women suffering in silence is considerably higher than demonstrated by various studies and surveys. We have anecdotal evidence that some women who call in sick with menopausal symptoms will give a different reason for absence due to embarrassment or anxiety.
“Given that many of these symptoms can be managed through supportive and flexible workplace policies, the workplace exodus of a significant proportion of menopausal women is a particularly worrying trend, not to mention an avoidable one.”
In some cases, the lack of adequate provision and focus across NHS GP services can leave menopausal women with little or no support and this can add to the issue. Many women are left struggling alone with difficult symptoms or are unaware of treatments or health interventions which may be available to them.
70% of employers concerned about women’s health issues
Fortunately, there is growing awareness among employers. Aon’s UK Benefits and Trends Survey 2022 found that three quarters of corporate respondents are concerned about women’s health, particularly as many women’s health issues such as menopause, fertility and maternity are not typically supported through private medical schemes.
With sickness absence impacting productivity levels and talent drain from those who have left the workforce due to menopause-related illnesses, the pressure on employers to provide dedicated provision for menopausal individuals is immense.
The good news is that many employers are starting to spearhead change: raising awareness and supporting employees in efforts to reduce the stigma and any menopause-related anxieties.
What employers can do
Perform a gap analysis
Employers considering implementing a menopause policy may want to consider carrying out a gap analysis to identify any gaps in support either nationally or globally. For example, there may be existing flexitime arrangements, but it may not yet have been communicated to employees that these arrangements are also available for women struggling with menopausal symptoms. Or there may be no specific health support or treatment pathways relating to menopausal symptoms which would then need to be implemented via specialist providers.
Awareness and education is absolutely key. Employers may want to consider awareness training sessions to ensure line managers and colleagues understand what menopausal individuals may be facing and how they can provide better support.
Provide support services
Health and wellbeing benefits may relate to specific treatments and health interventions to help manage symptoms but in many cases, it’s not always treatment that’s needed. It might be supportive guidance to help employees navigate complex and emotional issues. Bespoke clinically-led support services in particular, can be a useful tool.
Health and wellbeing benefits
Employers may want to consider providing specialist medical support for menopausal individuals who would benefit. This could be access to either a specialist menopause trained GP or a clinically led menopause support service.
Talk to an adviser
Aon’s women’s health programme helps organisations support employees – from providing strategy and policy guidance through to benefits, support, training and awareness.
0344 573 0033
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