Too many women are struggling at work due to perimenopause & menopause symptoms.
Here's how to manage your symptoms at work and get the support that you need
Menopause and the workplace
It can be daunting to talk to your employer about your menopause, especially if you feel it’s affecting your performance at work or you are feeling ill and need time off work. But know one thing: you are not alone.
In 2020 there were 657 million women around the world who were aged 45- 59-years-old - many of them working while experiencing perimenopause and menopause.
We are the fastest growing segment of the workforce. By 2022 it’s estimated that around one in six people in employment will be a woman over 50.
This article is a guide for how to manage your symptoms of perimenopause and menopause at work.
If you are finding it hard to manage both your menopausal symptoms and your job then you are not alone: nearly 60% of menopausal women say it has had a negative impact on their work - with 30% of women taking sick leave because of it and 20% of women leave their jobs due to menopause.
Going through perimenopause and menopause can be an extremely anxious, stressful time. The symptoms are deeply personal, often last for many years and the taboo around the topic in the workplace makes it hard to talk to colleagues and managers about what is happening. Often you may not connect the symptoms you are experiencing to menopause because not all women experience the traditional hot flushes or changes in periods straight away.
Symptoms can mean you:
find it harder to concentrate and remember things
struggle to find the right words you want to say during meetings and conversations
lose confidence in your abilities and skills
feel anxious and low
lose interest and motivation in your work
feel tired from sleep disturbances
feel physically ill - due to a range of symptoms that menopause can often create such as muscle aches, migraines, dizziness and nausea.
All of this means that menopause can have a dramatic impact on your career, preventing you from feeling able to progress and making you feel miserable at work.
How to cope with menopause at work
You can ask for support from your employer to help make coping with menopause at work more manageable. For example, you could ask for adjustments to help make your workday easier to manage, or you could simply find that letting your workplace know that you are experiencing symptoms can lead to greater understanding and support.
How to speak to your employer about menopause
It can be daunting to approach your employer about your menopausal symptoms, especially if you feel it’s affecting your performance at work or you are feeling ill and need time off work.
Here are some tips for how to prepare to speak to your employer:
Arm yourself with information about menopause to help you understand the symptoms and their links to how you are feeling at work.
Schedule a 1:1 meeting with your manager to discuss how you are feeling. If you don’t feel comfortable raising this topic with your manager then consider meeting with a HR manager or someone else that you trust.
Before the meeting, consider sending them an email ahead of this meeting with a link to our Menopause Resources so that they can understand more about menopause. In your email, you could say that you’d like to discuss this topic in your 1:1.
Prepare for the meeting by noting down how you are feeling about work and the symptoms you are experiencing.
Think through the outcomes you are hoping for from the meeting so that you can be clear about what you will be asking for. For example, you might want your manager to simply be aware that you are going through menopause so that they can support you if needed in the future. Alternatively, you might want to ask for specific workplace adjustments now such as flexible working or a cooling fan.
Look at what other workplace support is available to you (or ask your manager if you are unsure) - occupational health services can help with workplace adjustments, some workplaces offer confidential listening & counselling services, and others are introducing digital GP services for easy-to-organise doctor appointments.
What adjustments can you ask for?
Small changes can make a big difference. Here are some suggestions for adjustments you could ask for from your employer. Of course, these will depend on your own personal circumstances, the symptoms you are experiencing and the type of work that you do.
Flexibility in your working hours - to help you manage your tiredness and low energy levels. You might also need time to attend doctors’ appointments or to see a specialist.
Workstation adjustments - for example, a desk fan to keep you cool, a seat closer to the air conditioning vents and away from radiators, a seat closer to the toilets. If you work in an organisation that offers them, you could ask for a workplace risk assessment to make sure that the area you work in isn’t contributing to or worsening your symptoms.
Meeting etiquette - encourage your workplace to schedule 25 minute and 55 minutes meetings (instead of 30 minute and 60 minute meetings) to ensure you (and others!) have time between meetings to take a bathroom break.
Uniform - if you are required to wear a uniform for work, take a look at the fabrics to see if they are contributing to you feeling hot or uncomfortable. If possible, ask your employer about swapping these fabrics for cooling cotton or if the fit of your uniform can be looser.
What are your rights in the workplace?
Your employer may have introduced a Menopause Policy, so it’s worth looking on your company intranet (your internal, employee-only website) or asking a HR representative if you are not sure.
If not, in the UK there are pieces of legislation which relate to your rights during menopause:
The Equality Act.While this does not specifically cover Menopause and perimenopause, if you have been treated unfairly due to menopause and perimenopause you may find this is discrimination due to your sex, and/or age, and/or disability [Source: ACAS]
What does the future of menopause support in the workplace look like?
The UK's #MakeMenopauseMatter campaign, which The Latte Lounge supports, calls for greater support for menopause in the workplace and menopause guidance in every organisation. You can sign the petition here.
In the UK, there is also recognition at a cross-party level that greater support for women is needed during menopause.
The Conservative MP Rachel Maclean has been campaigning to normalise menopause as a workplace issue.
The Labour MP Carolyn Harris has also said: “You wouldn’t dream of having a workplace where people weren’t entitled to certain things because they were pregnant, and it’s exactly the same for women with the menopause. I firmly believe there should be legislation to make sure every workplace has a menopause policy, just like they have a maternity policy.”
Do you think your workplace would benefit from a greater awareness of menopause?
The Latte Lounge provides Workplace Menopause Awareness sessions for employers, training sessions for managers, and can support employers with the development of workplace support such as menopause policies and awareness materials.
We love hearing about companies taking action to normalise menopause in the workplace. Some examples of organisations are below.
Marks & Spencer:
Marks and Spencer created ‘Your Wellbeing’ a website for their employees in 2010. The site has since been expanded to host a Manage Your Menopause micro-site, which includes a video about and tips on coping with the menopause and information for line managers on supporting women through transition. The Marks and Spencer approach to the menopause also encompasses referrals to a specialist team within their Occupational Health and Employee Support services where necessary and robust policies covering menopause-related absence. This element of the initiative was driven by feedback from the retailer’s national Business Involvement Group, the members of which are elected employee representatives. Marks and Spencer say their efforts have been very well received by their female employees, who, at time of writing, make up 74% of their workforce.
Channel 4 has made its menopause policy publicly available as an example of best practice for all employers.
The policy includes access to flexible working arrangements; paid leave if feeling unwell due to menopause symptoms, including the sudden onset of symptoms whilst at work; a private, cool and quiet space; a working environment assessment to ensure that their physical workspace is not making their symptoms worse, and an array of support and guidance resources. Channel 4 has also introduced menopause awareness briefing sessions for its leadership teams.
Edelman launched a menopause at work policy in 2021. The policy includes an additional 10 days’ ‘time-out’ leave for those experiencing menopause or supporting someone going through menopause. The policy also offers flexible working arrangements and changes to working environments.
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