Following our recent webinar, we wanted to share some of the key takeaways and discussion points for those that were unable to attend.
Laura Wiegratz, HR Director was joined by Kay Quillen, B2B Marketing Specialist and Morag Dearsley, Associate at Form Design.
During the webinar, the panel discussed the wider issue of inclusivity and the general treatment of women in the workplace; menopause being one important aspect of this.
Despite the Equality Act being in place since 2010, we continue to see unfair treatment of women in the workplace, and of course the allegations surrounding Russell Brand. Laura talked through some of the HR and Employment Law considerations recently highlighted by two prominent cases, Ministry of Defence and Thistle Marine. These cases underline the barriers posed to women in the workplace and demonstrate that menopause is not being recognised as an ongoing workplace issue.
Workforce productivity is a key issue and with the prospect of pension age increasing, it is more important than ever to create an inclusive and supportive workplace for all; particularly for women and those experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Kay gave some sobering statistics and pointed out that 44% of menopausal women in employment say their ability to work has been affected by their symptoms. Despite this, 8 in 10 menopausal women say their workplace has no basic support in place for them – no support networks (79%), no absence policies (81%) and no information sharing with staff (79%). A fifth – 21% – of women who have to wear uniform or a dress code to work say it is uncomfortable given their symptoms, rising to 28% among working class women (in the DE social group). 41% say they have seen menopause or menopause symptoms treated as a joke by people at work. Among women who had taken time off due to menopause, 39% had cited anxiety or depression as the main reason on their sick note, rather than share their menopause status (Fawcett Society in 2022).
Morag explained that by the time women reach the menopause, they are at the peak of their career. Women of menopausal age are the fastest growing group in the workforce and are staying in work for longer. There are currently around 4.5 million women aged 50–64 in employment. Yet these skilled role models often receive little support with menopause symptoms. As a result, some cut back their hours or responsibilities. Others leave work altogether ((House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee Menopause and the workplace).
Although the menopause is not a specific protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, if an employee or worker is put at a disadvantage and treated less favorably because of their menopause symptoms, this could be discrimination if related to a protected characteristic. Potential costs associated with not supporting menopause in the workplace could be legal and reputational costs, retention and recruitment, engagement and motivation and sickness absence.
Practical Tips to Support Menopause in the Workplace
Menopause symptoms can affect work outcomes and the work surroundings and culture can also impact on menopausal symptoms. Laura talked through some practical tips to approach menopause in the workplace:
- A policy is a good place to start. In order to foster inclusivity, this should have communication, commitment and clarity from the top.
- There should be a continuous dialogue and awareness training for all. The aim is to normalise menopause and treat it as an ongoing workplace issue, and legitimate reason for needing support.
Morag talked about some design aspects that employers should consider for a more inclusive workplace for women:
- The provision of a private quiet room to allow individuals to take a moment away from the main office to express milk or whilst experiencing a hot flush etc. A calm space with soft seating, low lighting, fragrance, no tech and its purpose known to staff so have permission to use it (e.g. doesn’t become a store).
- Consider the choice of workstation set up for women experiencing aches and pains.
- If someone finds it difficult to concentrate, for example due to brain fog or tiredness, providing a focus space to work would be beneficial.
- Ventilation and adjustable temperatures to ensure women are comfortable at work.
- If there are lockers provided, these should be located next to toilets to ensure easy changing if required.
- Period products should be provided in toilets.
- Provision of cold water and fresh fruit etc to support healthy eating and exercise.
- Surveys and consultations should regularly be carried out to ensure the physical environment can be continually improved.
Kay talked about some of the ways employers can show their commitment to diversity and inclusion through a marketing lense:
- Many companies are aiming for B-corp status or have ambitious ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) goals. This is about adhering to a set of standards which signal to customers, employees and investors that they are a purpose driven and well-run, transparent organisation. This can significantly boost a company’s brand and provide an edge on the competition.
- Diversity and inclusivity is important for both B-corp and ESG. It ensures that every employee has an equal opportunity to contribute and be at their most productive. Having support for women experiencing menopause symptoms not only supports those women, but shows younger women that all women are treated well and are valued.
- The ‘About’ page on your website is one of the most visited by prospective employees, clients and investors. If people are visiting this page and seeing there are no women in senior roles, then this could negatively affect their opinion of the company.
If workplace support around menopause isn’t available, we risk women feeling undervalued when their wellbeing is not taken seriously. It is important to take a holistic approach when fostering an inclusive workplace. We should create an informed and supportive environment through various practices as highlighted in the webinar, as well as realising the importance of taking preventative steps to treat the menopause as an ongoing workplace issue.
If you were unable to attend the webinar, the full webinar can be found here.
For support on creating a more inclusive and supportive workplace, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org