For the month of March, we've been continuing the International Women's Day celebrations with a blog series that aims to unpick some of the biases that still exist in the workplace and disproportionally impact women, many of which are rarely talked about.

This week we’re rounding off our series by focusing in on an issue that will, at some point, either directly or indirectly, impact almost all of us in the workplace: the menopause.

The changing age of the UK’s workforce means that between 75% and 80% of menopausal women are in work. In fact, this is the fastest growing demographic in the workforce.

But despite this, research shows that the majority of menopausal women don’t seek medical advice if they’re experiencing symptoms – let alone speak to their line manager about menopause-related health problems, or ask for the support or adjustments that they may need.

One colleague shared with us her experience of trying to access medical support from her GP, only to be told that “44 is far to young to start the menopause and that couldn’t possible be what was wrong with me” – resulting in a long struggle to get the treatment she needed. 

If women are fighting for recognition in medical settings, it’s unsurprising that most aren’t rushing to raise any concerns at their next one-to-one.

We speak to Rebecca Swiffen, Senior HR Business Partner here at Recordsure and TCC, about why it’s time all businesses started talking about the menopause, and looking at how they can support their female employees through this part of their life.

Why menopause, why now?

Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life, and it isn’t always an easy transition. Symptoms can be both physical and psychological and will vary from woman to woman. These can include hot flushes, poor concentration, difficulty sleeping, headaches and panic attacks. 

While not every woman will experience or notice every symptom, 75% of women do have them. 25% could be classed as severe. Ultimately, this could impact their work life.

Rebecca Swiffen, Senior HR Business Partner, Recordsure
Recordsure HR_Rebecca_Swiffen_Headshot

Rebecca continues:

“It’s shocking to me that, according to research, one in four women have considered leaving their jobs as a result of struggling with symptoms.

Ignoring this issue means you risk losing the skills and talent you need to run a successful business, and will certainly impact diversity and inclusivity if you’re not proactively supporting a significant proportion of your workforce.”

What can workplaces do?

With the right support, it can be much better. Whilst every woman doesn’t experience symptoms, supporting those who do will improve their time at work.

Over the past year or so, the financial services sector has made progress. HSBC UK, first direct and M&S Bank are among the first in the UK to receive Menopause Friendly Accreditation. But you also don’t need to be a large global corporation or have far-reaching initiatives to make a difference.

As Rebecca argues:

“Making menopause an inclusive subject that no one is afraid or embarrassed to talk about is the most important thing. Menopause shouldn’t be ‘hidden’ or a taboo. Everyone should understand what it is, and be able to talk about it openly, without embarrassment. This is not just an issue for women, men should be aware too.

Even small to medium-sized businesses can implement policies that can help educate and inform line managers and employees about the potential symptoms of menopause, and how it can affect an employee. It’s no different from having a maternity policy which, in this day and age, most workplaces do.

Fostering this kind of environment gives employees the confidence to ask for help and support if they need it, ultimately reducing absenteeism due to menopausal symptoms and helping to make your business a great place to work.

I’m excited that TCC and Recordsure will soon be rolling out a new menopause policy. My hope is that other businesses will follow suit.”

Colleagues from across TCC and Recordsure have also been sharing resources that helped them navigate their own journey through menopause. The Channel 4 documentary hosted by Davina McCall got a special mention:

“Most of my friends (we’re all menopausal now!) watched it with husbands or male partners, and every single one had the same conversation.

Woman: “Oh my goodness, this is all so true”

Husband or male partner: “Oh my goodness, I had no idea you have to go through this!”

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