The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age as oestrogen levels decline. Research shows that 10 per cent of women leave their jobs, and many more are reducing their hours or passing up promotions, because of their menopausal symptoms.
With our population now living longer, working longer, and with so many people working in the NHS, it's vital that staff are supported to stay well and thrive in the workplace.
Menopause is not just a gender or age issue, as it can impact on colleagues both directly or indirectly, and it should therefore be considered as an organisational issue. Managers need to know about it and how they can support their staff. They should also be aware of the indirect effects of the menopause on people such as spouses/significant others and close family members and friends of individuals going through the menopause. The transition can put additional pressures and changes on relationships, it is therefore important managers signpost to appropriate support channels.
Why do we need to know about the menopause?
- Women make up 77 per cent of the 1.3 million people of the NHS workforce.
- Data shows that menopause usually starts in mid to late forties, and women can experience an average of four years of perimenopause before their period stops completely.
- Symptoms can last months or years and can change over time. They can range from cognitive, physical and psychological symptoms (for example hot flushes, muscular aches, poor concentration, anxiety and headaches).
- One in four people with menopause symptoms are worried about the ability to cope with life.
- A survey from Acas has found that a third of employers (33 per cent) do not feel well equipped to support women going through the menopause.
If your organisation has any helpful resources on menopause and the workplace, please email us.
- Research within the academic field indicates that some people are unwilling to discuss menopausal difficulties with their line manager. Increasing awareness of what the menopause is and the impact it can have on a female’s work-life is key to educating the whole organisation, in order to best support colleagues. Effectively gaining buy-in from senior leaders will help your menopause aims and agenda. Read how to get your board onboard with health and wellbeing priorities, such as the menopause.
- Acas has published updated menopause at work guidance to help employers and managers support their staff. It includes tips for workers on how to raise any concerns and good practice guidance for employers to help manage menopause at work.
- The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Let's talk menopause resource provides managers with tools on how to effectively support women going through the menopause at work.
- The Faculty of Occupational Medicine's (FOM) guidance on menopause and the workplace and infographic highlights that nearly eight out of ten menopausal women are in work. FOM also found that the majority of women are unwilling to disclose menopause related health problems to their managers. The guidance offers practical guidance on how to improve workplace environments.
- Download the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Group's menopause at work guidance to understand the principles that will support your organisation, line managers and the individual.
The NHS electronic staff record (ESR) team has worked with NHS England to develop a guide on recording menopause related sickness. The guidance includes step-by-step instructions on how to record menopause related absence to help HR colleagues and ESR users.
Nearly 60 per cent of people between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work. By recording accurately, organisations can gain a better understanding of the impact menopause is having on their colleagues and put in place the necessary support.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put inevitable pressure on all of our NHS people. Line managers should be aware of additional struggles some people experiencing may face, including the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and menopausal symptoms. Wearing additional layers, such as PPE, can exacerbate menopause symptoms such as heat stress and hot flushes.
Read our infection control during COVID-19 for information about heat stress and the wearing of PPE.
Long COVID and the menopause
There is new and emerging evidence of low oestrogen levels (which happens during the menopause transition) being associated with an individual having long COVID. Line managers should be aware of how to support recover after long COVID.
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust created an information leaflet for staff which directly links into its overall health and wellbeing strategy and improving working lives policies. Its Let's Talk Menopause page provides useful links and toolkits. The trust has also created videos in partnership with Business in the Community to further support staff and managers with the menopause in the workplace. Take a look at the guide for managers video and the guide for employees video.
East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust
The trust has created menopause guidance and andropause guidance for employees and line managers to support staff who are experiencing issues, creating an environment where staff feel confident to raise concerns, instigate conversations and ask for reasonable adjustments in the workplace.
Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust
The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has an informative menopause factsheet to support employees.
Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust
Recognising the need for a safe space for female colleagues experiencing the menopause to connect, the trust set up a closed Facebook group for staff to join, where colleagues support each other and share their menopausal experiences. With 80 per cent of employees at the trust being female, and many of these either of, approaching or post menopausal age, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole have implemented menopause network meetings, with guest speakers such as gynaecologists attending to educate and raise awareness, with an inclusive atmosphere welcoming all staff members. The trust acknowledged the importance of senior leadership visibility in promoting awareness of the menopause, and a director shared her experience of the menopause at the network meeting, which inspired others to speak out, too.
Working collaboratively, the organisation’s organisational development practitioner and lead psychologist created a video to bust menopausal myths and answer frequently raised questions that staff had wanted to know more about. None of the trust’s successes of raising awareness within the menopausal space could have been achieved without support from their dedicated comms team. The trust share information displayed on their web page specifically for employees who are supporting a partner going through the menopausal transition, providing facts about the menopause and the changes to expect. They also have an informative leaflet documenting menopausal symptoms, explaining the difference between perimenopausal, menopausal and postmenopausal as a way to educate staff members.
Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust
Alex Watson, HR business partner and health and wellbeing lead from Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, also shares the practical steps the trust took to support staff and the trust created menopause guidance.
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS trust
The trust has created a staff menopause policy, have menopause advocates, and have hosted a range of wellbeing sessions centred on the menopause, such as mindfulness, pelvic health and eating well so that staff receive a holistic approach to the topic. NUH have also been shortlisted for a Healthcare People Management Association award for their partnership work with unions.
Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Our menopause and the workplace webinar featured Suzanne Banks, who was the chief nurse from Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, talking about how she developed and implemented a menopause strategy so that staff going through the menopause at work were supported. You can read more about Sherwood's work in the case study below.
After recognising that staff sickness absences were often related to menopause symptoms, Sherwood Forest Hospital Foundation Trust committed to developing and implementing a menopause strategy so that all staff going through the menopause were supported. Since launching the strategy, referrals into occupational health now include menopause and stress/anxiety, and the age of a female staff member is considered at triage to give staff the correct support. Read about the challenges and outcomes in this case study.
West Midlands Clinical Research Network (CRN)
West Midland’s journey began in 2018, setting up an online community group called ‘The Big M’, acting as a central platform to share information, articles, advice and free online resources. Since then, the organisation has thrived in providing menopause provision and have:
- Created a menopause guidance document, detailing how the menopause may impact on staff, top tips to assist those experiencing the menopause and further signposting
- Organised from 6 bespoke training sessions through MenoHealth, centred around various topics (for example hormone replacement therapy, diet, exercise), with discussion time and a practical exercise to relieve menopausal symptoms. All sessions lasted one hour, accessible to all staff either live or recorded.
- Collaborated with East and Eastern Midlands CRN, acknowledging the importance for information about the menopause and symptoms to be circulated to all line managers to best support staff members, designing an instructional video.
- Arranged two ‘meno Café’ drop-in sessions to encourage staff to connect ‘socially’ with each other on the topic of menopause.
- Health and wellbeing conversations - this page provides guidance for line managers to hold confident and sensitive conversations, particularly useful when discussing the menopause with those directly and indirectly affected by the menopause.
- Guidance on the menopause at work by the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Group.
- Flexible working web pages informs organisations how they can use flexible working to support staff impacted by menopause.
- The menopause at work toolkit was created by the cross-government menopause network for managers and staff to raise awareness of the menopause transition.
- The effects of menopause transition on women’s economic participation in the UK is an evidence-based report that recommends changing organisational cultures, compulsory equality and diversity training, tailored absence policies
- The menopause at work: guidance for line managers and let’s talk menopause guide by the CIPD provides insights into supportive reasonable adjustments in the workplace. They also have printable resources for organisations.
- The British Menopause Society has educational videos for managers on menopause.
- Pausitivity have created a support pack containing conversation at work guidance, a symptom sorter and signposting to further support.
- Henpicked have a dedicated menopause hub section of their web page, including a section on the menopause at work.
- Faculty of Occupational Medicine’s guide to managing occupational aspects of menopausal symptoms.
- Ted talk on The link between menopause and gender inequity at work.
- The Unmind app has a dedicated section on menopause and is free to use by NHS staff.
- The Royal Collage of Midwives have collected short case studies across the NHS and beyond.
- Menopause services: resources and information. Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust have collated an array of information and signposting about the menopause.
- What is the non-binary experience of menopause? A blog written from a non-binary experience of the menopause.
- NHS England has published guidance to help NHS organisations, line managers and those working in the NHS to understand more about the menopause and how they can support colleagues at work and those experiencing menopause symptoms.