If your organization doesn’t yet have a menopause plan — which includes training and awareness — it should be high on the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) agenda. The facts alone make it perhaps the most significant “undiagnosed” barrier to inclusion in the workplace.
Menopausal women are the fastest-growing demographic in today’s workplace. In the UK alone, 60% of women have taken time off work due to menopause symptoms, 900,000 women have left their jobs due to menopause, and 67% of women with experience of menopausal symptoms say they have had a “mostly negative” effect on them at work, according to data from CIPD.
VinciWorks’ recent research revealed that online queries for “menopause and workplace adjustments” have surged by a staggering 80% over the past four years (the data analyzed was from Oct. 2019-Sept. 2023). In parallel, searches for “menopause training course” and “menopause awareness training” have risen by 75% over the same period. Intriguingly, the term “menopause-friendly workplace” has seen a 63% increase in searches.
What’s clear is that menopause and its symptoms are becoming increasingly crucial issues that organizations must address. As more women and transgender individuals experience menopause in the workplace, the need for support from their workplace becomes even more evident.
It’s almost mind-boggling that the issue of menopause at work is not more widely considered or addressed. Or, it’s due to the chronic undervaluing of women by a patriarchal society that still sees women as “less than.” But workplaces can be a bastion of social change. Training can and does change minds, change behaviors and spark conversations that need to be had. Taking menopause seriously in the workplace starts with awareness and rooting out implicit bias.
Awareness training is fundamental to breaking down barriers to discussing difficult subjects at work. From LGBTQ+ inclusion to #MeToo, a well-developed training course can give everyone in the workplace a common language to start a conversation. Training can bust myths (like that “male menopause” is not a thing), or that women experiencing menopause symptoms need just be “cured” of them.
Starting with training can spark conversations about how to make changes that can really help mitigate the impacts of menopause at work. For instance, adjusting the temperature and air conditioning. Working in non-climate-controlled locations can make hot flashes much worse. Or assuming that “all women” prefer an office warmer than cooler can ignore the fact that sometimes, for various reasons, some women might prefer a cooler office or at least a cooler room.
Training can help remove those kinds of assumptions and deepen the understanding of everyone in the workplace of what menopause symptoms feel like and how to deal with them.
Alongside training, having clear communication, especially from the top, is vital when addressing any inclusion issue. Menopause is a normal stage of life. Yes, it’s challenging, but it is a natural process for women. If women are made to feel they are “doing something wrong” by trying to manage their symptoms, then the statistics speak for themselves. They’ll leave.
Training also helps managers understand what they can and should do to help. Managers are vital organizational tools to provide clarity, guidance and information to people. Particularly when women are managing symptoms and may benefit from some flexibility, managers can make that a much easier conversation if they understand the issues. If managers also know from the top what the policies and procedures of the organization are when it comes to flexibility and managing menopause symptoms, what might be a difficult conversation can actually be done very simply and sorted out in a few minutes.
Beyond menopause training being a nice-to-have for organizations planning their 2024 inclusion agenda, it may soon be a legal requirement in the UK.
Deputy Labour Party leader Angela Rayner has committed Labour to introducing a statutory right for menopause leave for women who are suffering from symptoms of menopause. If they win the next election, likely to be held in 2024, Labour will require large employers with more than 250 employees to produce menopause action plans. They will publish guidance for employers on uniform and workplace temperature issues, as well as flexible working and menopause leave and absence.
So, whether your organization has already been thinking about menopause awareness training and support, or if you plan to soon, both inclusion best practice and potential legal compliance should mean that menopause awareness is the next big thing on your DEI agenda.
Here are several actionable tips for organizations to support employees facing menopause:
- Provide training to both managers and staff to facilitate open conversations about menopause and ensure managers can recognize and support employees experiencing it.
- Break the stigma by demonstrating empathy toward staff going through menopause and asking sensitively about their needs and well-being.
- Develop a workplace menopause policy or integrate menopause into existing health and wellness policies so that employees are aware of their rights and available support.
- Encourage executives to adopt flexible working arrangements, such as adaptable working hours or remote work options, to accommodate employees dealing with menopausal symptoms.
- Ensure workplace facilities are comfortable by providing temperature control, access to private restrooms, and cold water and fans.
- Allow flexible use of sick leave or personal days to manage the unpredictable nature of menopausal symptoms or permit short breaks as needed.
By following the recommendations above, training professionals can help support all women in the workplace by challenging biases and creating a more equitable environment.