Written evidence from Florence Gregory, NHS Somerset Foundation Trust [MEW0053]
Menopause and the Workplace
My name is Florence Gregory and I work for Somerset Foundation Trust as a Library Assistant in the Library and Knowledge Service. I am currently working with our wellbeing team to educate members of our organization on the symptoms of menopause and to provide support to members of the Trust who may be experiencing, or know somebody (be it a partner, colleague, employee or family member) who is experiencing the menopause. I also help to select quality health resources which can be shared by both the wellbeing and library department in relation to menopause and its symptoms. This includes: reports, articles, books and websites.
My aim is to educate and raise awareness on the symptoms of menopause and to signpost to quality health information available on the menopause.
I am raising awareness in two ways: firstly, via online virtual cafes which discuss the menopause, offering support as well as education surrounding the menopause and its symptoms. These sessions can be requested by particular teams such as a ward of nurses, or may be open to the general staff body as drop-in sessions. It is important to stress, that in order to make the sessions as inclusive as possible to trans and non-binary persons, the sessions will be open to both men and women and the attendance of all staff members will be actively encouraged in our social media campaigns.
Sessions commonly include: open discussions on the experience of menopause, signposting to quality health resources (such as books, websites) and the use of polls which will help gather raw data that can be used to help influence our trust’s menopause guidelines. These guidelines will be written by our wellbeing lead.
Secondly, via an exhibition which will be launched on October the 18th (International Menopause Day). The exhibition will be displayed for two weeks in the library and then will be shown in Taunton Public Library for a week (with the possibility of touring around other public libraries in Somerset).
Thirdly, via a menopause libguide, which will have links to key websites such as the NHS, Henpicked and Menopause Matters. The libguide will offer employees of the Trust the chance to browse quality health resources in their own time whilst providing a sense of anonymity, if individuals do not feel comfortable speaking about this sensitive issue face-to-face.
The exhibition will have literature for staff members to take away, such as leaflets on how to: speak to your employees about menopause if you are a line-manager, speak to your partner about menopause and how to speak to your GP about menopause. If you would like examples of these resources, please do email me at Florence.Gregory@Somersetft.nhs.uk.
It will also have posters which signpost the common symptoms of menopause and common misdiagnosis of menopause symptoms. Alongside this, it will contain the current work the trust is carrying out on the menopause and our future objectives. Please see below for more information:
What the trust currently offers in terms of menopause education and support:
Virtual Menopause Cafes which offer the chance to discuss your menopause experience with others
A devoted collection of Menopause books available to borrow from the library
Information on the wellbeing intranet with signposting to quality health information on the menopause
Resources which discuss how to talk to your GP, partner, friend, family member or employee about menopause and your/ their symptoms available from the Library’s menopause libguide or from this exhibition!
What the trust plans to do in the future:
Create guidelines on how the menopause should be managed in the workplace including a risk assessment for menopause
Offer training to line-managers on how to support their employees who are experiencing the menopause
Continue to offer virtual menopause cafes to discuss your experience of the menopause
What the library plans to do:
Continue to grow their menopause book collection
Continue to offer up to date resources/ information on their Menopause libguide
Continue to support you in your menopause journey by offering easy access to quality health materials
Moreover, the exhibition also aims to bring attention to resources which can support BAME members of staff. This includes specific podcasts and websites which speak about the BAME experience of menopause. For example:
Black Girls’ Guide to Surviving Menopause Gender inclusive podcast and guide presented by leader, facilitator and healer Omisade Burney-Scott.
Menopause Whilst Black Forthcoming series of podcasts about Black British women’s experiences of menopause, hosted by Karen Arthur
From my research, it appears that there are limited resources on the BAME experience of menopause. For example, I carried out a brief piece of research (valid at the time of it being carried out on the 13th of September 2021) which indicated that only 0.62 percent of the literature on menopause from our NHS medical bases concerned BAME women. Please email if you would like more information or for figures to be broken down.
This is shocking, when it is suggested that the BAME women’s experience of menopausal symptoms (Black, Asian and Latina) can be longer than white women’s with research suggesting that symptoms including hot flushes and vaginal dryness, are also usually more intense and prolonged (Red Online, 2021).
Our trust does not currently have a policy on menopause and our wellbeing lead is hoping to create some guidelines on menopause in the workplace. This information will be based upon data that I collect during my virtual cafes which will help to shape what women in our trust need. The raw data will be gathered from anonymous polls which will be carried out during the virtual menopause cafes (which are run via Microsoft Teams).
Alongside these guidelines, a risk assessment template will be created. This will be used by line-managers to assess the risks associated with women with menopausal symptoms in our work place, taking into account factors such as access to toilet facilities, the need for ventilation and the need for flexible working conditions and hours.
From speaking to women in my Trust, it seems that one of the main differences that can be made is to offer training sessions to managers. This will allow them to properly support and help their employees who are going through the work place. The wellbeing team is currently looking into providing these sessions, allowing line-managers to have consistent and open dialogue with their employees, understanding menopausal symptoms and how this can affect work performance.
It is my belief that line-managers should understand the importance of carrying out regular one-to-ones with employees displaying the symptoms of menopause, with constant reviews set to assess the situation in a consistent and continuous manner. From anecdotal stories, I have been told that some individual women in my trust have had to leave their roles due to the menopause and its symptoms, either leaving the trust completely or having to come back to work on a reduced basis. This is why I believe that regular one-to-ones are so important and must be engrained into my trust’s practice.
It is my belief, that a menopause policy should be compulsory in every workplace, with clear guidelines and compulsory training for line-managers. In addition to this, it is important to have wellbeing champions, who have been properly trained in menopausal symptoms and their effects on individuals. This idea would mimic the library champions and wellbeing champions that exist in our trust and many other trusts across the country.
These individuals can offer impartial advice to both employees and managers and can be a confidential source of information, who can also signpost employees to services where they can access help for their symptoms such as occupational health. Moreover, they can act as a go between, if employees do not feel comfortable speaking to their line-manager.
Managers need to be aware not only of the symptoms of menopause, but also how to signpost individuals to occupational health, wellbeing services and their GPs. It is only with this education that we can start to make a difference to women’s lives. A success which will be based on menopause guidelines which offer consistency to an experience that every woman experiences differently.