Menopause stigma still ‘rife’ in workplaces as women fear for their careers

24 May 2023

Nearly half (44%) of women experiencing menopause symptoms ‘suffer in silence’ at work, due to fears it could negatively impact their career.

In a bid to hide symptoms, 48% say they would lie about why they needed a sick day, rather than saying menopause was affecting them, and 39% are still embarrassed to talk about the topic at work, according to a new survey by Lime Solicitors.

The law firm polled 1,001 women who are experiencing or have experienced menopause or perimenopause. The research, carried out in April, also found 60% of respondents think their workplace should offer more menopause support, and less than a third (29%) of the women surveyed said they would feel comfortable asking for adjustments to help support them with menopause symptoms.

“Our research shows that almost half the of women surveyed think going through menopause will negatively impact their career, which is why so many women suffer in silence,” said Neha Thethi, head of employment at Lime Solicitors.

“It appears employers are failing an important part of their workforce by not providing the necessary support or creating a positive culture whereby people can raise concerns or issues with confidence.

“To help dispel the stigma around menopause and empower women to speak freely and honestly about their experiences, we need menopause champions in all workplaces,” Neha added.

How can employers help?

Menopause is a simple fact of life, and very much a reality in the workplace,” Paula Allen, global leader of research and total wellbeing, and senior vice-president at TELUS Health, told PA Media.

While there has been a big increase in menopause awareness in recent years – with a number of celebrities, such as Davina McCall, shining a light on the topic, there’s still progress to be made. “It isn’t paid much attention in the workplace as a health issue, and therefore is rarely managed in a way that is optimum,” she added.

She said, “eradicating stigma and inaction starts with education” – which can include “wellbeing sessions on all aspects of women’s health, including menopause, and training of managers on how to support employees with health needs”.

Dee Murray, CEO of Menopause Experts Group, agrees awareness training is a key part of the picture.

“Women who experience menopausal symptoms in the workplace are likely to need some support, or at the very least signposting, when they most need help,” said Murray.

“Making sure line managers are trained, or at least have some basic knowledge, is hugely important. It’s also important to remember that those managers too may be experiencing menopause symptoms, or will do at some stage, if they are female.

“Menopause champions – just like mental health first aiders – have become a vital part of the workplace for many women,” Murray adds. “Champions allow women to feel safe speaking out about symptoms that may be causing them extra anxiety and challenges at work.

“Far too many women still feel embarrassed about discussing symptoms, and they must feel secure in the knowledge that they will not become the butt of the office jokes or judged about their symptoms, which can often be debilitating and very personal.”

Workplace adjustments

Allen said: “The good news is that even though menopause is a noteworthy health issue, the support needed from a workplace point of view can be quite simple. For example, menopause can cause drastic changes in body temperature, which can be addressed with fans, or by offering desks with windows or air conditioning vents close by.

“Symptoms of menopause may also include insomnia, irritability and depressive symptoms, all of which have a physical base but can impact behaviour and mental wellbeing. With this, employees should take advantage of the personal support offered by their workplace through their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and their Telemedicine provider if available.”

A flexible approach

Murray notes that flexible working can be an effective adjustment too.

“Employers who offer flexible working hours and remote working will benefit in the longer term. Firms with Menopause Approved status find they have better retention of staff and are more competitive when it comes to recruitment too,” she said.

“Those experiencing menopause are not always seeking special treatment, just acknowledgement and support to help them through what can be a tricky time.”

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