Productivity and employee well-being are paramount in almost every business, yet a recent study found that when it comes to Women’s Health, many employers aren’t supporting staff as much as they should be. This lack of support can have serious consequences for business. There is the risk of losing great employees at the peak of their career, but also of a potential employment tribunal as has been shown in a number of recent cases.

A recent study by Axa Health, in collaboration with the Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR), has exposed this startling reality: the continued neglect of women’s health in the workplace is exacting a considerable toll on the UK’s economic prosperity – which they put at a staggering £20bn/year! Despite 68% of women reporting having experienced health issues at some point in their careers, the report reveals that nearly a third (29%) of them believe their employers do not provide the support they need. For issues specific to women’s health, such as endometriosis, fertility, menopause, and menstrual health, this lack of support skyrockets to 36%. In addition, in a recent podcast Alexis Krivkovich of McKinsey summed-up the situation by saying “Women leaders are voting with their feet”!

A lack of training and awareness around these issues can have a negative impact on both the employee and employer, and can result in employment tribunal losses for the business. This blog is the first of a series to delve into these important issues – which are designed to help and support you and your business to actively address this matter to foster a healthier, more productive, and legally compliant work environment.

Part 1: The Menopause, A Vital Conversation for Workplace Well-being

In recent times, there has been a growing awareness of the profound impact of menopausal symptoms on women, particularly concerning their experiences within the workplace. The conversation around menopause is gaining momentum, with more research, narratives, and heightened awareness.

Research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reveals significant strides in the provision of menopause policies and the cultivation of more supportive workplace cultures. However, there remains a noticeable gap, signifying that there is still work to be done. Now is not the time to rest; it’s the time to engage.

The statistics are telling. According to a recent CIPD survey, two-thirds of women who have faced menopausal symptoms reported a negative impact on their work. A staggering 70% of them found it difficult to concentrate, while 68% experienced elevated levels of stress.

Notably, those who received support at work reported reduced pressure and stress, highlighting the profound benefits of a supportive environment.
Considering that the largest growing segment of the working population comprises women over the age of 50, it is concerning that 25% of women experiencing menopausal symptoms have seen it hinder their career progression. This not only affects individual women, but also results in the loss of valuable skills, knowledge, and experience for employers and the workforce as a whole. In an era where access to these assets is at a premium, this underscores the business case for employers to implement supportive measures. This includes policies, procedures, training, communication, and the creation of an open culture that fosters conversations and supports employees. It is not just women who are affected by menopause. There are instances of men, too, facing challenges in their work due to the menopausal symptoms of the women in their lives.

The legal landscape has also been influenced by landmark cases, such as “Rooney versus Leicester City Council” which set a precedent by recognising menopause symptoms as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. This means employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to working conditions to prevent discrimination. Another significant case, “Anderson versus Thistle Marine”, emphasises that the increasing attention to menopause-related cases is here to stay, urging employers to proactively support staff during this phase. It also highlights the need for clear guidance to leaders and managers to avoid actions that could contribute to employer liabilities. So, why is it crucial to keep the conversation on menopause alive? Here are some compelling reasons, along with examples of strategies and initiatives that employers are adopting:

  • 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.
  • 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 they 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.
  • 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 in terms of both sales and recruitment.
  • 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.

Every workplace is unique, and the solutions and initiatives will vary. However, the key is to initiate the conversation and keep it going, recognising that menopause is a natural life event deserving of our attention and support.

What next?

If you require any help or assistance around how your business supports those going through or preparing for the menopause, this is an area we regularly work with clients on – whether they engage with us on a Retained Basis or just on Ad Hoc / Project work. To find out more contact us here, or reach out to Margery, Neil or Laura on LinkedIn.

We also gave a Webinar recently about this topic, so to read a summary of this event please click here.