Menopause, the workplace and how we can help
What is the menopause?
The menopause is a biological change that every woman will go through at some time in their life. It’s a natural, normal process that typically occurs in women in their early 50’s.
For some women, the menopause can also start earlier as it is linked to the decline of oestrogen levels. Some surgical interventions can bring on early menopause too.
The transition to the menopause is called the ‘perimenopause’. Symptoms last for around 4 years on average.
Impact on function:
The menopause can have a significant impact a woman’s mental and physical health, with the most common concerns being:
Anxiety and/or depression
Loss of confidence
Hot flushes and/or night sweats
Unexplained weight gain
Taken together, menopausal symptoms can have a profoundly negative impact on valued roles and home and work life.
The menopause is largely a taboo subject, especially in the workplace. Many women feel isolated, alone and frustrated.
Despite a growing awareness of the impact on a large sector of the workforce, “women’s issues” are an uncomfortable topic for most. Many people are unaware of the workplace impact until they know someone going through the menopause or they are experiencing it themselves.
Currently, many women go through the menopause in silence, and do not disclose their menopausal difficulties to their colleagues or employer. In a survey conducted by ‘Forth’ (2019) out of 1000 women surveyed, 63% said that their working life had been negatively affected by their symptoms and 24% said they had called in sick due to their symptoms. A further 20% of the women surveyed explained they were on long term sick leave, and 8% disclosed that they had turned down promotions due to their symptoms.
The menopause and the workplace:
Menopause and perimenopause are not specifically protected under the Equality Act 2010, but if you are treated unfairly this may amount to discrimination because, for example, of your age, sex or a disability. Even for those workplaces without specific menopause policies, existing policies such as sickness or flexible working will often cover the menopause.
According to the Equalities Act 2010, an employer must minimise, reduce or where possible remove workplace health and safety risks for workers.
• ensuring menopausal symptoms are not made worse by the workplace and/or its work practices
• making changes to help a worker manage their symptoms when doing their job
An employer must routinely assess health and safety risks for workers.
Regarding the perimenopause and menopause, an assessment could, for example, include:
• the temperature and ventilation in the workplace
• the materials used in an organisation’s uniform, if there is one, and whether the uniform might make a worker going through the perimenopause or menopause feel too hot or worsen skin irritation
• somewhere suitable for the worker to rest
• toilet and washroom facilities that are easily available
• cold drinking water that is easily available
How we can help:
Your employer/HR can arrange for an Occupational Therapy assessment with us. This assessment will outline your current situation, the symptoms you have and how these are impacting on your work. Our report will outline reasonable adjustments and accommodations your employer needs to make to support you remaining well in the workplace.
Why choose us?
KMA Occupational Therapy is a nationwide occupational therapy consultancy with experienced and knowledgeable clinicians who are dual trained in mental and physical health. Our occupational therapists provide a ‘whole person’ perspective, meaning we look at all aspects of your life, not just the symptoms you are experiencing.