In line with International Women’s Day and its theme of ‘breaking the bias’, Dr Samantha Evans, lecturer in Human Resource Management (HRM) at Kent Business School, discusses the taboo of menopause in the workplace and what more can be done to support women. She said:
‘Despite the menopause being a natural part of ageing for women between 45 and 55 years of age, there is still much to be done to support menopausal women in the workplace – arguably one of the last taboos of gender inequality in the workplace.
‘But why is this of importance for employers? Studies have shown that three out of four women experience menopausal symptoms, which can have a significant impact on attendance and performance in the workplace. For example, The Chartered Institute of Personal & Development found that three out of five (59%) working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms reported that it had a negative impact on them at work. This is significant with menopausal women being the fastest-growing demographic in the workforce and nearly 80% of menopausal women being in work. Moreover, the menopause is not just a gender or age issue, as it can impact colleagues both directly or indirectly, and should therefore be considered as an organisational issue.
‘By supporting women through menopause, organisations can benefit from increased engagement and loyalty, as well as lower sickness absence and employee turnover. With increased recognition that employee well-being is critical to improving employee engagement and performance, employers can only benefit if they support their employees through all stages of their working lives, including the menopause. It will also help remove barriers to progression for women, thus improving an organisation’s talent pipeline and helping to close the gender pay gap.
‘In today’s ‘talent war’ alongside growing concerns about the ‘great resignation’, organisations need to look after all their employees to attract and retain the talent they need to run their businesses. Fostering an age and gender inclusive workplace will help maximise the valuable skills and talent that men and women of all ages have to offer. What’s more, employers have a legal duty to ensure working conditions don’t exacerbate someone’s symptoms and to protect employees from discrimination, as successful employment tribunals brought against employers by menopausal women have shown.
‘So, what can employers actually do? Raising awareness and providing information for all staff about the menopause is a good starting point. Conducting a review of existing policies and ensuring staff understand any legal implications, such as identifying reasonable adjustments. Enabling and supporting line managers to support their teams is critical as they are primarily responsible for the health and wellbeing of their team at work. Essentially, creating a culture where everyone can talk openly about health issues, such as the menopause, will go a long way to ‘breaking the bias’ and addressing gender inequality in the workplace.’
Dr Samantha Evans is a lecturer in Human Resource Management and the Athena SWAN Lead at Kent Business School. Samantha’s current research interests are focused on social class inequalities and employee well-being, examining the impact of social class on individual experiences of work, work-life balance, equality and well-being.