Article

Menopause and the workplace

Information on how menopause can affect people at work, and practical guidance for employers on how to improve workplace environments for them.

4 August 2021

The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age as oestrogen levels decline. Studies have shown that menopause symptoms can have a significant impact on attendance and performance in the workplace. 

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. All managers need to know about it, and how they can support their staff. Managers should also be aware of the indirect effects of the menopause on people such as spouses, significant others, and close family members/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.

Awareness on this topic is fundamental and reducing the stigma attached to it is vital so that more people will talk openly about it and the menopause can begin to be normalised.

Why do we need to know about the menopause?

  • There are 3.5 million women over 50 in the workplace in the UK.
  • Women make up 77 per cent of the 1.3 million people of the NHS workforce.
  • In the UK, the average age for a person to go through menopause is 51.
  • Symptoms of the menopause can last up to 10 years.
  • Symptoms range from cognitive, physical and psychological symptoms (for example hot flushes, muscular aches, poor concentration, anxiety and headaches).
  • Around one in 100 women experience menopause before age 40.
  • Three out of four women experience symptoms, one in four can experience severe symptoms, which impact on their day-today life.

If your organisation has any helpful resources on menopause and the workplace, please email healthandwellbeing@nhsemployers.org.

  • 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 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 (CIPD) and Development's 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 Partnership Group's menopause at work guidance  to understand the principles that will support your organisation, line managers and the individual.

  • 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. The physical environment can impact on people who are menopausal, and wearing PPE is now an everyday requirement for those working in NHS settings. Wearing additional layers, such as PPE, can exacerbate menopause symptoms such as heat stress and hot flushes.

    Read our infection control during COVID-19 web page 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 recovery after long COVID, which you can find out more about on our web page.  

  • 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.

    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.

    Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust

    The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has an informative menopause factsheet to support employees.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.  

    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. For more information on the work that Belfast is doing, contact Samantha.Whann@belfasttrust.hscni.net.

  • Resource Name

    Type of Resource

    Description

    Toolkit: menopause at work 

    Toolkit

    The cross-government menopause network created a colleague-manager toolkit designed to raise awareness of the menopause transition and provide information to employees who are directly and indirectly affected by the menopause.

    The effects of menopause transition on women’s economic participation in the UK

    Research Report

    Co-authored by Jo Brewis, the evidence based report recommends changing organisational cultures, compulsory equality and diversity training, tailored absence policies and flexible working patterns.

    The menopause at work: guidance for line managers

    Guidance

    Aimed at managers, CIPD’s guide helps managers to understand the barriers a colleague going through the menopause could potentially face, identify where appropriate adjustments could be implemented, and foster an inclusive working environment.

    The British menopause Society

    Web page with a variety of video clips

    The variety of educational videos surrounding the menopause will help educate line managers about the symptoms of the menopause and what it entails.

    Menopause Support Pack

    Downloadable support pack

    Pausitivity have created a support pack containing conversation at work guidance, a symptom sorter and signposting to further support.

    Menopause and work

    Articles

    Henpicked have a dedicated menopause hub section of their web page, including a section on the menopause at work.

    Guidance on menopause and the workplace

    Guidance

    This three-page practical guidelines developed by the Society of Occupational Medicine aim to help those experiencing menopausal symptoms and their line managers, by tackling occupational aspects of menopausal symptoms.

    The menopause at work: printable resources

    Printable posters

    CIPD offer a variety of printable posters detailing menopause facts and the dos and don’ts of the menopause to display in workplaces.

    Health and wellbeing conversations

    Web page

    Our health and wellbeing conversations web page provides guidance for line managers to hold confident, skilled and sensitive conversations with colleagues, particularly useful when discussing the menopause with those directly and indirectly affected by the menopause.

    The link between menopause and gender inequity at work

    TED talk

    Andrea Berchowitz, co-founda at Vira Health, gives practical advice on creating a menopause-friendly work cultures that support gender equity and diversity retention in the workplace.

    NHS Wales Example Menopause Policy NHS Wales have a standardised menopause policy consisting of several sections which cover supporting menopausal employees, research based evidence and menopause and the law. 
    Unmind App Providing free access for NHS staff, this App has a whole section dedicated to the menopause.