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How to boss the menopause at work

It's hardly water cooler conversation, but perhaps it should be! Whether you're going through menopause or you manage employees who are, get clued up on what support is available and be part of the menopause movement.

I know, we don’t like talking about it, especially in the workplace! But that’s why we need to take a leaf from Davina McCall’s book who’s been working to combat the taboo. While menopause commonly starts in your 40s, perimenopause can begin for some women in their 30s, and with a staggering 20% of women leaving their jobs due to menopause symptoms, it’s time to stop suffering in silence and ask for support, or find out how to support your staff if you run your own business.

Debenhams Ottaway’s employment law specialist, Michael Kerrigan (yes, a man, and we love him for championing the menopause movement!) is dedicated to educating both employees and employers on their rights and legal support available to them for managing menopause in the workplace. Here’s his advice…

Menopause is making me miserable at work, what can I do?

Stats show that 42% of women consider leaving their job due to menopause (and 20% actually do!), as they are often too afraid or embarrassed to speak up about their symptoms. But there are lots of things you can do:

  • Make sure your employer is aware of the symptoms and how they are affecting you.
  • Check if there is a menopause policy at your workplace to understand what support there is available for you.
  • Speak to a trusted friend or adviser you work with. Many organisations (Debenhams Ottaway for one!) have introduced trained menopause champions to help colleagues deal with any menopause-related problems.
  • Consider requesting support with your work environment or pattern – a formal flexible working request could be submitted if you cannot agree changes informally.
  • Keep a record of any incidents at work that cause you distress.
  • Speak to your HR team if you feel like you’ve been dismissed or ignored by your manager, as you may want to consider raising a formal grievance.

How can I provide a supportive environment for my employees impacted by menopause?

As an employer, a good first step is to introduce a menopause policy. We recently surveyed some Hertfordshire businesses and only 25% of them have one, despite 43% being aware that female employees have faced difficulties or even left their job because of menopausal symptoms.

A policy will set out what menopause is, the different ways it can affect women, and how it should be dealt with in the workplace. Having one in place can improve the wellbeing and productivity of your female employees and help you retain your female staff (many women in senior roles resign at the peak of their careers because of menopause). It can also reduce the risk of costly legal claims – recent stats show employment tribunal cases mentioning menopause rose by 44% in 2021. This is rising as women feel more empowered to take action, but shows how far employers are falling behind in their support.

Here are some other ways to support your employees who may be struggling with menopause symptoms:

  • Provide mandatory training for managers (particularly males) to help them better understand and support female staff going through menopause.
  • Appoint an internal ‘Menopause Champion’ who women can turn to for help and advice (an idea backed by 73% of Hertfordshire businesses in our survey).
  • Sign the Menopause Workplace Pledge to take positive action to support female employees going through menopause.

For more advice on this and other workplace or employment issues, contact the legal experts at Debenhams Ottaway.

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