Written evidence from the Latte Lounge [MEW0023]

What is the nature and the extent of discrimination faced by women experiencing the menopause?

The results of a recent survey we undertook on the impact of menopause in the workplace were quite shocking with 42% of women considering leaving their jobs due to their menopause symptoms:

 

https://www.lattelounge.co.uk/42-of-women-consider-leaving-job-due-to-menopause/

It can be really daunting for women to talk to their employers about  menopause, especially if they feel it’s affecting their performance at work or they are feeling ill and need time off work. I speak from personal experience having left my own job due to my debilitating perimenopause symptoms. You can read my story here: https://www.lattelounge.co.uk/katies-story/

In 2020 there were 657 million women around the world who were aged 45- 59-years-old - many of them working while experiencing perimenopause and menopause. 

We are the fastest growing segment of the workforce. By 2022 it’s estimated that around one in six people in employment will be a woman over 50. nearly 60% of menopausal women say it has had a negative impact on their work - with 30% of women taking sick leave because of it and 20% of women leave their jobs due to menopause.

Going through perimenopause and menopause can be an extremely anxious, stressful time. The symptoms are deeply personal, often last for many years and the taboo around the topic in the workplace makes it hard to talk to colleagues and managers about what is happening.

Often women may not connect the symptoms they are experiencing to menopause because not all women experience the traditional hot flushes or changes in periods straight away.

Symptoms can mean they:

All of this means that menopause can have a dramatic impact on their career, preventing them from feeling able to progress and making them feel miserable at work. 

 

How does this impact wider society?

Menopause predominantly affects women in midlife with 51-years-old the average age of menopause in the UK.

However, premature menopause can affect women at a much younger age, chemical or surgical menopause can affect women at any age, and transgender and non-binary people may also experience menopause too.

The symptoms of menopause will affect women on average for four years, but sometimes for up to 10 years. These symptoms are both physical and emotional - and while for some women they will be mild, for others they could be severe, long-lasting and debilitating.

Often, these symptoms will begin while a woman is in her 40s, in the prime of a career. 

Lost confidence, sick leave and tiredness can leave women feeling unable to fulfil their job demands.

What is the economic impact of menopause discrimination?

How can businesses factor in the needs of employees going through the menopause?

Women have suffered in silence with their symptoms, often counting themselves out of career progression opportunities or even quitting successful careers in order to cope.

We offer a range of menopause in the workplace toolkits, training packages and awareness sessions that can help you to:

The Latte Lounge offers a range of support for organisations who want to support their employees through menopause.

We deliver all this and more in a format that best suits the organisation:

How can practices addressing workplace discrimination relating to menopause be implemented? For example, through guidance, advice, adjustments, or enforcement.

Employees must be able to ask for support from their employer to help make coping with menopause at work more manageable. For example, they could ask for adjustments to help make their workday easier to manage, or they could simply find that letting their workplace know that they are experiencing symptoms can lead to greater understanding and support.

It can be daunting to approach your employer about your menopausal symptoms, especially if you feel it’s affecting your performance at work or you are feeling ill and need time off work.

So here are some tips for employees on how to prepare to speak to their  employer:

Small changes can make a big difference. Here are some suggestions for adjustments they could ask for from their employer. Of course, these will depend on your own personal circumstances, the symptoms you are experiencing and the type of work that you do.

What are examples of best or most inclusive practices?

Marks & Spencer:

Marks and Spencer created ‘Your Wellbeing’ a website for their employees in 2010. The site has since been expanded to host a Manage Your Menopause micro-site, which includes a video about and tips on coping with the menopause and information for line managers on supporting women through transition. The Marks and Spencer approach to the menopause also encompasses referrals to a specialist team within their Occupational Health and Employee Support services where necessary and robust policies covering menopause-related absence. This element of the initiative was driven by feedback from the retailer’s national Business Involvement Group, the members of which are elected employee representatives. Marks and Spencer say their efforts have been very well received by their female employees, who, at time of writing, make up 74% of their workforce.

(Source: Government Report: Menopause transition: effects on women’s economic participation, 2017) 

Channel 4

Channel 4 has made its menopause policy publicly available as an example of best practice for all employers. 

The policy includes access to flexible working arrangements; paid leave if feeling unwell due to menopause symptoms, including the sudden onset of symptoms whilst at work; a private, cool and quiet space; a working environment assessment to ensure that their physical workspace is not making their symptoms worse, and an array of support and guidance resources. Channel 4 has also introduced menopause awareness briefing sessions for its leadership teams.

Download the Channel 4 Menopause Policy

Edelman UK & Ireland

Edelman launched a menopause at work policy in 2021. The policy includes an additional 10 days’ ‘time-out’ leave for those experiencing menopause or supporting someone going through menopause. The policy also offers flexible working arrangements and changes to working environments.

Read about Edelman’s policy here.

How should people who experience the menopause but do not identify as women be supported in relation to menopause and the workplace?

We might well be seeing the tide beginning to turn for menopause awareness and support for menopause in health, work and employment. But there’s still an awfully long way to go. And for menopause support to be truly inclusive it also needs to evolve to support everyone experiencing menopausal symptoms. Psychotherapist and Author Tania Glyde (they/she) knows this only too well having founded queermenopause.com in 2020: https://www.lattelounge.co.uk/why-inclusive-menopause-lgbtqia/

Should current legislation be amended?

Your employer may have introduced a Menopause Policy, so it’s worth looking on your company intranet (your internal, employee-only website) or asking a HR representative if you are not sure.

If not, in the UK there are pieces of legislation which relate to your rights during menopause:

How effective has Government action been at addressing workplace discrimination related to the menopause, and what more can the Government do to address this issue?

The UK's #MakeMenopauseMatter campaign, which The Latte Lounge supports, calls for greater support for menopause in the workplace and menopause guidance in every organisation. You can sign the petition here.

In the UK, there is also recognition at a cross-party level that greater support for women is needed during menopause. 

The Conservative MP Rachel Maclean has been campaigning to normalise menopause as a workplace issue. 

The Labour MP Carolyn Harris has also said: “You wouldn’t dream of having a workplace where people weren’t entitled to certain things because they were pregnant, and it’s exactly the same for women with the menopause. I firmly believe there should be legislation to make sure every workplace has a menopause policy, just like they have a maternity policy.”

We have been campaigning for the past 5 years, and although we are delighted that menopause is now on the secondary school curriculum in England we really need to ensure that all medical schools have menopause on the curriculum and all workplaces have policies in place.

 

How effectively is the Government Equalities Office working across Government to embed a strategic approach to addressing the impact of menopause in the workplace?

 

The Menopause APPG is a good start but there is so much more to be done.

 

September 2021