What are my employment rights related to menopause and what do I need to do if I am an employer to support my employees?
Menopause can be challenging to navigate, no matter what you’re doing. However, you don't get to pick and choose which days you feel your symptoms most heavily. Some days, you may be able to push through the pain and discomfort.
While it's not ideal, it's something you must do at work — leaving many people with few options for their own comfort.
Around 42% of working women consider leaving their workplaces due to menopause.
The best way to stop menopausal women from leaving the workforce is to find ways to minimise the symptoms while we’re in the office. You might have to do things for yourself to make you more comfortable, but other times, you should be able to rely on your workplace.
When it's up to you, make sure you make choices that work with your menopausal symptoms rather than against them.
If your workplace doesn't yet have accommodations for people with menopause, make sure you're doing all you can to mitigate your symptoms.
Here are some simple changes you can make right from your desk to help you get through the day easier:
Whatever the weather outside, dressing in layers in your office is the best move.
You'll want a few outer layers you can remove if you start to experience a hot flush. That way, you're not stuck in what you wear to work and suffering through sweating and other symptoms. Your attire remains weather – and workplace – appropriate while helping you be as comfortable as possible.
Nearly 50% of postmenopausal women in the UK aren't adequately informed of menopause before they start experiencing symptoms. (1)
Try not to worry about what others think — it's okay to dress how you want to, especially if it helps you take control of your health.
Menopause or not, you should strive to quit the unhealthy habits that only damage your well-being. Smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol in excess can leave you feeling unwell, damaging your organs and leaving you wide open to other conditions.
Today is the best day to quit. It'll help you live a healthier lifestyle and encourage you to stay active in a way that eases your menopause symptoms rather than exacerbates them.
RELATED: How to kick the sugar habit
A healthy lifestyle can benefit everyone. When you constantly move, you won't get as many cramps or joint pains.
Now is a better time than ever to start eating healthier meals and taking walks once or twice a day. When the rest of your body is in good health, you'll have less to worry about as you fight menopause symptoms.
Women's dietary needs change as they enter menopause.
Typically, when going through menopause, you'll need extra vitamins and minerals — these additional supplements are necessary when going through pregnancy, too. (2)
Talk to a healthcare professional to find out if you should take any supplements along with your regular meals. You may be impressed by what you find out is already included in your regular diet.
You deserve to feel comfortable at your workplace. Bringing a portable solution with you to put you at ease should be an easy way to mitigate your menopause symptoms.
Like people might bring space heaters to work in a chilly environment, you could bring a portable fan to help you with your hot flushes.
First, if you're worried you'll disturb someone else, consider asking your boss whether you can move to a corner or another secluded area so you don't affect anyone else's space.
Then, make sure the fan is appropriately sized for your space. Some people may have to make do with a desktop fan, while others may be more comfortable bringing in a box fan based on the area they have to themselves.
Hot flushes typically lead to sweat, leading to fluid loss that can dehydrate you.
Drinking enough water ensures your body isn't fully depleted and can help you focus and get through your day. Drinking enough water can also help cool you down during a warm episode.
You may want to try alkaline water. In one study, subjects who drank alkaline water had greater muscle strength and slept better than those who drank non-alkaline water. (3)
In theory, all water is good water, so drinking some is better than none. Start by replacing sodas or other sugary beverages at lunch with plain water. You may eventually reach for it as the first option.
Unfortunately, many menopause symptoms can be treated as a joke by some. In reality, they're sometimes so difficult to overcome that people lose focus at work.
About 30% of women take sick leave for menopause symptoms, missing out on a day of work and potentially falling behind due to something they have no control over. You should feel comfortable having conversations about menopause in your workplace — they're nothing more than you advocating for your health.
Burnout affects too much of the population. Many people see it as just part of the working world, but it's not a natural state to live in. When you work in a less-than-ideal environment, you're bound to feel burnt out from all the work, whether it's too difficult or too menial.
Almost 85% of employed adults in the UK can pinpoint symptoms of burnout when they see them. (4) While this statistic is great, it might be harder for many people to recognise the symptoms in themselves when they can easily pass it off as anxiety or something else.
Falling behind on your work due to menopausal symptoms could lead to a higher likelihood of burnout.
Topics are only embarrassing to talk about if you make them embarrassing.
Menopause is a part of your life — it's something that around half of the population goes through at some point.
Since it's a crucial part of your health, you should feel safe talking to your employer about it. While you don't need to discuss every little detail with them, you can let them know what you're feeling and how it may affect your work.
If you want to take it further, you could tell the coworkers sitting near you what to expect.
Just giving them a small heads-up about you bringing in a fan or getting up and down for water more often might help them streamline their workdays with fewer interruptions.
Be honest and answer questions if you want to. Menopause may start to be taken more seriously in your workplace.
RELATED: Menopause explained - for men.
Your workplace should rethink its policies around menopause if it has any.
Around 57% of employees want a more diverse (5) workplace, like those that embrace people of all identities and respect all needs.
That also means not discriminating due to age and embracing all of life's changes — including menopause.
Encourage your employer to reevaluate employee benefits, especially if many people in the office are experiencing menopause or might encounter it soon.
Working from home is a luxury not every workplace affords. If it’s possible, talk to your employer about working remotely more often. If you're an excellent employee, they may allow you to work at home during this stage of your life.
Explaining your symptoms may also help them understand how you working from a home office will benefit everyone. For example, when at home, you don't have to worry about other people when adjusting the temperature to your liking.
Remote work might also help with some of the more "TMI" symptoms of menopause, like vaginal dryness.
About 80% of menopausal women have this symptom, yet fewer bring it up to medical professionals or have adequate treatment for it. Working from home could handle some of the awkwardness when approaching an issue.
Many people don't want to create a disturbance in the office. More often than not, it's women in the workplace who want to avoid making a big deal of things and squish themselves down to be as small of a problem as possible. You shouldn't have to downplay your symptoms and suffer in silence when a few changes could make the workplace much more tolerable.
Women often have to wait about 33% longer to be treated than men with the same concerns (6).
Though it might be tempting to act like nothing's wrong, be sure to talk to your employer if you need special accommodations. They should be willing to help you however possible.
Humans are constantly changing. Your body has undergone numerous changes, and you'll still see more as you age. Menopause is just one hurdle to jump through.
Though it might feel like the end of the world sometimes, you’ll get past it. While it could leave you uncomfortable in many situations, menopause is not something others should laugh at — they just need to be educated.
Cultivate a space in your office to help you feel more comfortable. When you've done all you can do to help you have a more leisurely day, consider talking to your employer about some options. They should be willing to work with you in any way they can — speaking up about your menopause symptoms could be worth it. You might see changes in how you feel and how eager you are to go to work.
(1) UCL News. (2021). Nine in ten women were never educated about the menopause. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2023/apr/nine-ten-women-were-never-educated-about-menopause
(2) Office on Women’s Health. Healthy eating and women. https://www.womenshealth.gov/healthy-eating/healthy-eating-and-women
(3) Chan, YM. (2022). Associations of alkaline water with metabolic risks, sleep quality, muscle strength: A cross-sectional study among postmenopausal women. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9621423/
(4) Mental Health UK. Burnout. https://mentalhealth-uk.org/burnout/
(5) Globalization Partners. (2022) How to incorporate diversity and inclusivity into your company culture. https://www.globalization-partners.com/blog/diversity-and-inclusivity-company-culture/
(6) Northwell Health, Katz Institute for Women’s Health. Gaslighting in women’s health: No, it’s not just in your head. https://www.northwell.edu/katz-institute-for-womens-health/articles/gaslighting-in-womens-health
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