Lady with menopause at work

How menopause-friendly is your business and why should it matter?

Following a highly informative webinar hosted by The Surrey & Sussex HR Forum with Sharon Vibert, Director of Henpicked, Menopause in the Workplace, it became highly evident to our HR Forum members, just how essential it is for everyone working within human resources to take menopause out of the shadows and to encourage constructive and practical conversations that surround the impact that it has on women in the workplace.

But why are we talking about this now? What are the reasons for supporting menopause in the workplace and what impact does it really have?

Compelling reasons to make changes now

These 4 compelling reasons will start to explain just how important it is to make changes now, not only to make the lives of mid-older women more comfortable but also to protect your business and your employees:

  1. The demographic case

There’s no doubt that women, in mid and older life, have been the fastest-growing demographic in the workplace for decades across the whole global north. In fact, women aged 50-64 are returning to work or staying in work longer, which is proven by the following statistics:

During the three months of January to March 1993 compared with the same time frame in 2020, their labour market participation had increased by 21.2 percentage points, which is significantly greater when compared to just 12.2 percentage points for men in the same time period.

  1. The business Case

Just considering recruitment costs alone, if a woman leaves her job because she can’t manage due to debilitating symptoms. Assuming she’s earning £25k – which is lower than the UK average – her departure will cost her employer over £30,500. As well as recruitment there is also the consideration of the cost of losing someone with knowledge and experience and then the resources required to retrain a new employee.

  1. Legal Case

The most relevant legislation covering menopause is the Equality Act 2010, on which successful tribunals have been based on. The protected characteristics relevant to menopause are age, sex and disability. We have also had health and safety at work legislation since 1974. This puts a duty of care on employers and failing to look after menopausal women could be argued as a breach of this law. Ensure you follow best practise in how you support menopausal women in the workplace.

  1. Corporate Social Responsibility Case

Because it’s the right thing to do. Statistics from ITV and the Wellbeing of Women tell us that 25% of women surveyed said they’d considered quitting work, and half said work made their symptoms worse. That’s an awful lot of women going through a miserable time because of a natural and inevitable process. There is strong evidence that work is a great provider of social support and a source of self-esteem. Normalising menopause at work and making it unremarkable is the right thing to do. A key comparator is women who are pregnant or have children, which is an ordinary workplace conversation. If you normalise it there is growing evidence, it pays dividends. Women who feel supported are happier and more committed and satisfied. This is hard to measure tangibly but is in evidence in a lot of data.

So why are we talking about the menopause now?

In the early 1900s, when life expectancy for women was in their fifties, the menopause was viewed as an end-of-life event, however, now, in the 21st century, life expectancy goes well into the 80s so menopause is now seen as a mid-life event for women. With more women in the workplace, working longer than ever before, it is inevitable that a high proportion of them will be affected by the symptoms of menopause. In fact, statistics show that 8 out of 10 women of this age will be working and 3 out of 4 of them will be experiencing symptoms.

These statistics have been backed-up by a recent survey conducted by the CIPD, which revealed that 3 in 5 women were negatively affected at work. And the latest BUPA survey states that nearly 900,000 in the UK had left their workplaces because of menopausal symptoms.

Recruitment and retention to support those affected by menopause

So it goes without saying that employers who want to invest in their people pipeline and nurture their existing employees must look at what changes need to be made to support those who are being affected by menopause.  Not only is this a key area of any equality, diversity and inclusion policies and practices, but it is a social obligation when it comes to employee wellbeing. From a more commercial angle, when there is such a shortage of talent and experience in the market, businesses that do not support menopause in the workplace, will suffer greatly when it comes to recruitment and retention.

Why would a business want to lose a valuable employee who has years of experience, purely down to the fact that they were not offering the right support? Likewise, what business would want potential talent to walk straight past their door and join a competitor that actively demonstrates their understanding and support for those affected by menopause? This is where the importance of having a proactive and effective HR function is key as more and more businesses are recognising the urgent need for change.

The legal perspective

Likewise, from a legal perspective under the Equality Act 2010, menopausal symptoms although not a disability, can technically be seen as that in certain areas and therefore, more legal cases have taken place where disability has been cited, and with this compensation has been uncapped. In all the plaintiff cases that have been successful, the reason for their success has been due to the fact that the line manager did not understand the symptoms of menopause and therefore offered no reasonable support.

Loss of talent

So, in an age where everyone is living longer and more women are in the workplace, there is overwhelming evidence that more support surrounding those affected by menopause must be offered and if we don’t embrace this as a matter of urgency, the continual loss of experience will become unsustainable for many businesses.

However, it is reassuring to know that menopause in the workplace really is under the spotlight and is finding its way into discussions in Parliament and in the media headlines. On World Menopause Day, which was held in October 2021, one in five employers said they were committed to taking action.

The Recruitment Consultancy can help

If you are a business owner, work in HR or would like to start the ball rolling in your business to head towards becoming a menopause-friendly employer, Sharon Vibert and her team at Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace will be very happy to assist and offer you guidance, training, toolkits and more to help you achieve your goal.  They have worked with a multitude of businesses that have successfully received accreditation as ‘Menopause in the Workplace Accredited’.

Alongside this, if you are looking for support with your recruitment and retention strategy, our team at The Recruitment Consultancy are here to help. We offer permanent, temporary and contract recruitment solutions, both remote and office-based, to companies from all sectors and of all sizes.

Ensuring you are, or can become, a menopause-friendly employer is important and becoming ever-more urgent – likewise, ensuring you have the right team supporting you on this journey is paramount.