Is Menopause an issue at Work?

In many work places there will be women affected by the menopause and it is important that managers know about menopause so that they can support their staff. Awareness on this topic is fundamental and reducing the stigma attached to it is vital so that more people feel able to talk openly about it.

What is the Menopause?

Menopause is a natural transition when a woman’s hormones are changing. The average age for a woman undergoing the menopause in the UK is 51, with women experiencing menopausal symptoms between the ages of 45-55 years of age. Around 1 in 100 women experience the menopause before the age of 40. There is often no clear cause for early onset of menopause, but it also can be as a result of surgery for example hysterectomy, illness or treatment (such as chemotherapy).

What difficulties can occur the Menopause?

Most commonly people recognise the stereotypical hot flushes but there are a range of other symptoms that can affect women going through the menopause which can vary in severity and range of symptoms. Some of the most typical symptoms of the menopause include:

  • psychological issues such as mood disturbance, anxiety and/or depression, panic attacks
  • memory loss including recall and reduced concentration
  • hot flushes (brief and sudden surges of heat usually felt in the face, neck and chest area)
  • sleep disturbance that can leave women feeling fatigued and irritable.
  • irregular periods and/or periods can become light or heavy
  • aches and pains in muscles and joints
  • recurrent urinary tract infections
  • weight gain
  • headaches and migraines

Managing the Menopause?

Lifestyle can also play an important role in managing symptoms particularly with regards to levels of alcohol consumption and being overweight. These are noted to aggravate and increase menopausal symptoms. Support to look at these areas can help a woman manage her symptoms such as having access to wellbeing programmes in the workplace.

Other small changes or adjustments, maybe even over a short period of time, may make a big difference to helping the female employee maintain work.

What support can the Workplace provide?

Other small changes or adjustments, maybe even over a short period of time, may make a big difference to helping the female employee maintain work.

Workplace adjustments may include:

  • Temperature and ventilation- look at ways to cool the environment such as providing fan, moving desk to near a window for example
  • Adapt uniform to improve comfort
  • Access to toilet facilities and allow more frequent toilet breaks
  • Change in shift pattern/flexible working arrangement
  • Easy access to cold drink water
  • Address stress through carrying out stress audit
  • Discuss whether employee has seen GP regarding accessing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help manage psychological symptoms.
  • Providing access to a quiet space

Organisational Changes to support Employees with the Menopause

It may be helpful to consider developing a menopause policy or policies for women going through the menopause. For example, considering whether your workplace has policies that allow work adjustments such as flexible working, sickness absence procedures that allow women time off if needed for health appointments or more breaks to help them during the menopausal transition. If no menopause specific policy exists, having the word ‘menopause’ mentioned in existing wellbeing and health policies has been regarded as useful.

You may also wish to consider referral to Occupational Health depending on the extent of the difficulties the woman is experiencing for further advice and support.

How does a referral to OH help?

A referral to Occupational Health can help to by providing independent, caring, supportive advice including

  • identify the extent and severity of symptoms and how they are impacting on the employee’s life (including work)
  • Explore with the employee management of symptoms and what aggravates their symptoms with a focus on work.
  • Advice and signposting regarding managing symptoms such as Hormone Replacement Therapy, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, mindfulness and lifestyle changes (exercise, diet, alcohol, stress)
  • Advice regarding reasonable adjustments to support employee in workplace.