Menopause and work: 5 reasons why business should take menopause more seriously.

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The Times They Are A-Changin'

It appears that Bob Dylan may be right. In the past year or so, there has been a real focus on women’s position in the work place and times they are a changing1 Recent research has highlighted the physical and mental impact that menopause has on women at work. 

BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour and BBC Radio Sheffield shared findings of a ComRes poll looking at how menopause affects women at work and in their relationships, and the treatments they found effective.

  • A whopping 70% of working women didn't want to make their employers aware of their menopause symptoms.

  • 48% felt that their mental health had suffered as a result of the menopause.

  • 25% said that the menopause made them want to stay at home.

The charity, Wellbeing of Women, recently published a major study looking at how symptoms of menopause affect women’s careers. Myra Hunter, Emeritus professor of clinical health psychology at King’s College London, and her team, tracked 124 women from the public and private sector who were struggling with menopause symptoms. The study concluded that a simple self-help cognitive behavioural therapy programme, provided in a short booklet with practical and accessible guidance on coping with stress at work, had a positive effect. It helped to reduce the degree to which women felt their symptoms were causing them problems, and improved the way in which they felt they could discuss menopause in the work place, thus challenging the stereotypical belief that women in menopause are 'past it’.

Tina Weaver, CEO of Wellbeing of Women said ‘It’s alarming so many women suffer from these debilitating symptoms and feel so unsupported during the menopause that they drop out of the work force,’ she said. ‘This natural process has been overlooked and considered a taboo for too long.’

We’re a growing army

More women than ever before, are working later in life both through the increase in pension age, or personal choice. Whether women are returning to work after their children have flown the nest, setting up their own ventures (like Hot Flush!), continuing due to financial necessities or just because they like it, it's  inevitable that a larger proportion of women will be working through their menopause and beyond. The more employers can do to acknowledge this, and 'normalise' it, the better!

Challenging situations.

Whether it be random mood swings, brain fog, hot flushes, fatigue, insomnia or anxiety, colleagues might not understand or appreciate that your fluctuating hormones are causing a personal storm for you. For some of you, menopause and its knock-on effects can be one of the most challenging events you’ve had to deal with during your working career. You're not in control of your hormones and this can have painful consequences. Take a look at our symptoms pick 'n mix page, to see what you can do for your symptoms, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Hot Flush flash-backs

Both Jo and Ann have experienced the challenges that menopause presents in a working environment. Ann with anxiety, brain fog, memory loss, low self-esteem, irrational mood-swings and let's not forget flooding from heavy periods, (total embarrassment but thank God for the cardi she could tie around her  waist!), not easy when standing in front of a class of eager design students looking for inspiration and motivation. Jo experienced up to forty hot flushes a day, accompanied by hot sweats as her internal thermostat went into overdrive causing her to lose concentration and feel disorientated. It was made even worse when well-meaning colleagues pointed this flushing out to her, aggravating the problem. For Jo, the debilitating flushes were part of the reason she decided to try HRT patches. She weighed up her personal risk against the benefits and the happy HRT patches she sticks to her hip, won out!

Here are 5 facts, taken from the above mentioned surveys, which we think add to the argument that businesses should take menopause more seriously.

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A rising workforce

In the UK there are around 4.3 million women aged 50 and over in employment. It is estimated that by 2020, at least 1 in 3 British workers will be over 50. According to the Department for Work and Pensions report published in 2017, the biggest increases in employment rates over the last 30 years have been for women aged 55-59. 

Change is inevitable

All female workers will go through the menopause. The average age of menopause for women in the UK is 51, although perimenopause symptoms can begin for some in their early 40’s and for others can go on into their late 50’s and beyond. 

Check the percentages

Widely accepted that 3 in 4 women experience menopause symptoms. 1 in 4 of these women experience severe physical or psychological symptoms. Many of these women are employed, could employers taking heed of these figures, ensure women are better protected in the work place? We’re following a number of employers public and private, some of whom are adapting policies and some who are not. Let’s see how the tide turns when legal challenges happen!

Advice and support

4 out of 10 women haven't ever consulted their GP about symptoms of menopause, even when they were worse than than anticipated. Looking at support provided by West Midlands Police, could employers do more to provide support?

Rewarding revenue

In 2017 a cross-party group of MPs seized on the ‘returnship’ trend. Too old for internships, the term has been adapted for older people, usually women, resuming careers following a period of caring for elderly or sick relatives, newly single or empty-nesters needing direction. A year-long enquiry reported that increasing the number of women in work by up to 5% could create about £750m extra in tax revenue and a fall in benefit spending.

Read the research

Plenty of positive facts that should encourage firms to support menopausal woman through their transition.

In November 2016 the Faculty of Occupational Medicine produced guidance on menopause and the workplace. Based on the largest study to date about menopause and work, conducted from the University of Nottingham’s School of Medicine. Professor Amanda Griffiths:

‘It is good to see that menopause is increasingly being widely recognised as a potential problem and is no longer ‘taboo’…More awareness and some simple changes, many that women themselves have recommended, could make their working lives during this time much easier.’

Research studies have been commissioned by the government Department of Education into menopause support. A 2017 research study by the University of Leicester on ‘the effects of menopause transition on women’s economic participation in the UK’ have outlined what the government can do to better support women going through transition - more awareness raising campaigns for mid-life women; further advice to employers & more training for medical and social care professionals so they are more aware of and sympathetic to the effects of menopause.

So let’s hope that change is on its way to make businesses more aware of the impact menopause may have on their female workforce.

You can read the full findings of the Wellbeing for Women research published January 8th 2018 in the journal Menopause.

If you want to up your confidence and become more empowered in the work place, watch our YouTube vlog with Hot Flush Confidence Coach Zena Everett.

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