This guidance is intended to raise awareness about menopause, to help you foster an understanding and promote an inclusive workplace that supports everyone equally.  It is essential that employers know how to support workers experiencing menopause symptoms to ensure they meet their legal responsibilities, but also that women in this group are able to contribute to the workplace and benefit from work. 

Whilst 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 favourably because of their menopause symptoms, this could be discriminative if related to a protected characteristic e.g. age, disability, gender reassignment or sex.   

All employers under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 stipulates an employer must, where reasonably practical, ensure everyone’s health, safety and welfare at work. 

Introduction: 

Roughly half of UK workers are women, all of who will experience the menopause, a natural stage of life that millions of women workers are either going through now or will experience in the future.  The menopause is marked by the changes in the hormones and the ending of menstruation (when a woman’s periods stop for 12 consecutive months). 

For most women it happens between the ages of 45 and 55, although some women experience it in their 30’s or earlier.  In the UK the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 52.  During the period before the menopause (the perimenopause) these changes lead to menstrual irregularities.  There are many symptoms associated with both the perimenopause and menopause stages and every individual’s experience of the menopause will be different but some of the most common symptoms include hot flushes, palpitations, night sweats, skin irritation, sleep disturbance, fatigue, poor concentration, mood disturbance, irritability and more.  Overall, this period of hormonal change and associated symptoms can last for several years. 

The menopause can lead to changes both in physical and emotional changes which can affect both her work and her relationship with her colleagues.  It’s important we recognise workers experiencing perimenopause and the menopause and that they feel they can openly discuss this stage in their life and raise any issues or discuss any concerns, and that managers are aware of their responsibilities in acknowledging, raising awareness and supporting colleagues who are going through the menopause.   

It’s important to provide a supportive environment for colleagues experiencing menopause symptoms, which includes understanding the challenges and offering support where needed.  Those experiencing the menopause also need to know that there is someone they can go to and discuss any menopause related concerns or specific adjustments needed.

Impact: 

Workplaces can negatively influence symptoms experienced, more specifically; 

  • Work stress, and work overload, such as exceptional job responsibilities and unpredictable/ long/ inflexible working hours/ shift work. 
  • Lack of autonomy. 
  • No temperature or ventilation control. 
  • Inability to take breaks discreetly/ easily. 
  • Unwelcoming workplace environments or sexist/ ageist cultures. 
  • Standardised work wear. 

However, work can also positively influence menopausal transition in a variety of ways, such as: 

  • Provide an escape from home stresses. 
  • Social support from colleagues and workplace friendships. 
  • Increasing self-esteem and a sense of identity by being competent at work/ and or retaining financial independence. 
  • Provide positive messaging surrounding menopause and mid-later working life. 

Support: 

Colleagues experiencing the menopause need support from both the Company and their manager.  With any longstanding health-related condition this is crucial and can make a big difference to how a colleague will deal with the issues arising from the menopause.  Work can affect colleagues working through the menopause in various ways, especially if they cannot make healthy choices at work or do not have the autonomy to make changes to her working environment.   

How can Managers support: 

Managers need to be aware of the steps they can take to support colleagues experiencing the menopause. 

Some simple steps: 

  • Wait for the colleague to self-identify as experiencing menopausal symptoms – however, if you observe a colleague displaying symptoms such as hot flushes you might want to use that as an opening to a conversation and asking is there anything you can do to help make the colleague more comfortable. 
  • Prepare for a positive experience during initial disclosure – be open to discussions and approach the subject with a positive mindset, remembering it’s OK not to have all the answers during initial conversations. 
  • Work collaboratively with others as required. 
  • Offer support – allow time and space, whether the colleague is requesting an informal or formal approach, allowing for a confidential space and systematic approach that allows the colleague to raise concerns or worries and to work through those together. 
  • Develop a working plan – given each colleague’s experience is unique to them each employee may need different forms of support.  Get an idea of what they might require to improve their symptoms at work. 
  • Review the plan and support the arrangement regularly. 
  • Training Line managers about the menopause and their responsibilities to colleagues experiencing it.  Ensuring managers are clear about what support and assistance they are required to offer, including what adjustments maybe necessary to support colleagues who are experiencing the menopause. 

Training: 

There are lots of free tools and training available about the menopause to raise awareness and understanding, ensuring you can offer appropriate support and your responsibilities to colleagues experiencing it.    

Please refer to Further Support Section for guidance. 

Flexible Working: 

The Company should be committed to offering flexible modern employment practices, which recognise that all employees want to strike a sensible balance between work and their home life and that different balances maybe needed at different times during the employees’ working life. 

Line managers should be encouraged to consider flexible working arrangements to support employees experiencing menopause symptoms. 

Reasonable Adjustments: 

If menopause symptoms have a long term and substantial impact on a woman’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, they may be considered a disability.  Under the Equality Act 2010, and employer is under legal obligation to consider and make reasonable adjustments and to not discriminate against the worker. 

This is where an individual risk assessment can be adopted to determine how the employee’s symptoms are impacting their ability to carry out their role and identify any reasonable adjustments that may help e.g. access to cold water, adjustment to hours, etc.  This may include an Occupational Health Referral in some cases to determine what those reasonable adjustments may look like. 

Additionally, worker experiencing menopause symptoms may be protected from less favourable treatment related to their menopause symptoms on the grounds of age and sex. 

Sickness and Absence Management Policies: 

Because the menopause can be long term and affects everyone differently, managing absence from work should be handled sensitively. 

Mangers are encouraged to keep talking to colleagues, including any performance issues which may be because of menopause symptoms, and should be prepared to look at and consider reasonable adjustments. 

Sickness absence arising because of the menopause should be recorded separately from other absences, and whilst there is no law for this type of time off, all reasonable steps should be made to allow colleagues to attend medical appointments related to the menopause. 

Risk Assessments: 

Assessments are a useful tool that help you consider the specific needs of those experiencing the menopause and ensure that that working environment will not make their symptoms worse.  This may include reviewing temperature and ventilation, uniform materials provided to employees.  Assessments should also address welfare issues such as toilet facilities and access to cold water. 

It is important to remember that workplace stress can impact menopausal symptoms, therefore stress should be risk assessed alongside concerns like temperature and access to facilities. 

Employee Assistance  

Employee Assistance Programmes can help companies create an ethos by creating an environment where colleagues feel supported.  They are intended to help employees and those living in the same household deal with personal problems that might adversely impact an employee’s performance at work as well as their life, health and wellbeing. 

Menopause and Wellbeing Champions/ or Menopause Support Group: 

If you don’t have access to an EAP system but to help promote a positive attitude to supporting those experiencing the menopause you might want to consider a support group, and or a menopause or wellbeing champion at work that can help those affected by the menopause.  From providing initial point of contact for a colleague or a safe space to talk through their concerns, especially if the employee feels uncomfortable talking to their manager in the first instance but be able to signpost colleagues to helpful resources and where they can find more information. 

Remember to treat all information related to an employee’s menopause with the utmost confidentiality. 

Further Support/ Resources: 

Useful sources of information and training links: 

NHS 

Menopause Matters 

The British Menopause Society 

ACAS – menopause at work guidance 

ACAS – training on menopause at work.