Menopause affects women in varying degrees. It is not automatically classed as a disability in England and Wales, although its symptoms can have significant adverse effects on a woman’s working life, which can lead to some employees losing confidence in the workplace. Symptoms of menopause include hot flushes, difficulty sleeping and night sweats, anxiety, depression, reduced concentration, headaches, dry skin and eyes, and can usually last for about 4 years, although on occasions longer.
A responsible employer should recognise that women may need additional work place support. Fostering an open, confidential, channel of communication is key in encouraging employees to discuss problems and/or challenges they may be facing in coping with menopause. It is also important that all employees understand what menopause is and how it may affect some colleagues, so as a sense of understanding is developed.
Good occupational health practices to consider are:
- flexible working hours to help address disturbed nights sleep, including flexible break times
- flexible sickness absence policies to accommodate for menopause
- mindfulness towards how symptoms may affect an employee’s workplace performance
- alternative, or relaxation, of dress code
- cool, ventilated spaces and access to cold water
- working with occupational health specialists to ensure that all best practices and responsibilities are being considered and met, and undertaking appropriate risk assessments.
With more women remaining longer in the workplace it is important that menopause and its symptoms are recognised and spoken about openly, without embarrassment, in the workplace.