In the UK alone, it is estimated that around 13 million women are currently peri or menopausal, representing a significant portion of the female population, yet there is still a culture of silence around these natural phases of a woman’s life. But how can we address the challenges women face during perimenopause and menopause, particularly in the workplace, and what can employers and managers do to create a more supportive work environment?
What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause refers to the time leading up to menopause. It’s a time of hormonal fluctuations and changes, and typically happens during a woman’s 40s. During this phase, oestrogen levels rise and fall unevenly, leading to irregular menstrual cycles, and various symptoms that can include hot flushes, sleep disturbances, mood changes, brain fog, and vaginal dryness. As these symptoms can persist for several years, recognising and addressing them is crucial for women’s overall wellbeing.
What are the symptoms and the impact?
The impact of perimenopause and menopause affects not only a woman’s personal life, but also her work-life. Symptoms such as hot flushes and brain fog can have a hugely detrimental effect on her career, and with inconsistent support offered by workplaces, women can feel too embarrassed to ask for help. The findings of a survey conducted by Newson Health Research and Education highlight the significant challenges women face in the workplace during this phase, with 99% of respondents reporting negative career effects due to their perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms, and over a third describing the impact as ‘significant’. Furthermore, 59% of women took time off work due to their symptoms, with 18% being absent for more than 8 weeks, many of whom subsequently resigned; one in five women passed on promotion opportunities due to their symptoms; and 60% of respondents stating that their workplace provided no menopause support.
What can employers do?
Acknowledging the challenges faced by women during perimenopause and menopause is the first step towards creating a more inclusive workplace. Employers and managers can work on several areas that will improve accessibility issues for women. These include opening conversations about health issues, including menopause; implementing protocols that allow women to approach supervisors if they need support; educating supervisors about perimenopause and menopause; offering flexible/alternative working arrangements; establishing support networks; and providing health resources.
Whether you are holding down an employed position as well as running your own business, or you employ women, make sure you take time to become aware of the significance perimenopause and menopause can have on working-age women, and what you can do to access/offer support.