In some instances, sources cited in this article refer to women. However, menopause is a condition which impacts people of all genders. The issues explored in this article may also impact transgender people, non-binary people and others, who are an important part of this conversation.
At Communicourt, we are celebrating World Menopause Day and opening up the conversation about menopause in the workplace. As part of The RCI Group, we have taken the Menopause Workplace Pledge and hosted an awareness session for colleagues, by Emma Persand of Working with the Menopause, about the impact of menopause upon our working lives. The RCI Group is also introducing a new group-wide menopause policy to support people at work.
Rarely discussed in our professional lives, menopause is a significant life transition and physical change which will affect 51% of the UK population. The recently published House of Commons Committee Report ‘Menopause and the workplace’ has collated a wealth of information which illustrates the importance of more open discussion about the topic:
- 3 in 5 women experiencing menopause were negatively affected at work (CIPD, 2019).
- 900,000 women in the UK had left their jobs because of symptoms relating to menopause (BUPA, 2021).
- Less than a third of people experiencing menopause told anyone at work, citing privacy and the reactions of others as key reasons for this (Women and Equalities Committee, 2022).
- Over 25% of people who did not request adjustments for menopausal symptoms did not do so because they were “worried about the reaction” (Women and Equalities Committee, 2022).
- 14 million working days per year in the UK are lost due to menopause and related symptoms (Health and Her, 2021).
These statistics paint a clear picture of the impact which lack of understanding and adaptations around menopause has on individuals, workplaces and the economy as a whole. Evidently this is a health issue which can have a marked impact on people’s ability to work without adaptations, yet which few people feel comfortable raising in a workplace setting. As such, workplaces are losing valuable, experienced staff members. These are often people who offer years of expertise and perform vital functions such as mentor and role model to more junior employees.
Destigmatising hormonal change
Bringing conversations and understanding about the menopause into the workplace is clearly an important task. When workplace cultures understand the potential impacts of menopause (and become aware of the adjustments which are likely to support menopausal employees), organisations can start to retain more senior staff.
Open dialogue about menopause at work also encourages important conversations about the effects of other hormonal changes which may affect employees, including pregnancy and the use of hormones for processes like IVF or gender confirmation. Other health conditions which impact women, transmen and non-binary people, such as endometriosis, can also become part of this wider conversation about better support and inclusion.
Menopause in the workplace: The facts
When does menopause happen?
- Menopause typically occurs between 45 and 55 years of age.
- In 1% of cases, premature menopause takes place before the age of 40.
- Perimenopause takes place before periods stop (menopause). During this time, menopausal symptoms can occur, lasting for months or (in some cases) years.
- After menopause (the total cessation of periods) menopausal symptoms last for around four years after periods stop. In some cases, the symptoms last longer.
What are the most common symptoms of menopause?
- Hot flushes and night sweats.
- Disturbed sleep and sleep difficulties.
- Vaginal discomfort.
- Mood changes, including increased anxiety and low mood.
- Memory and concentration difficulties.
- Heart palpitations.
- Joint stiffness, aches and pains.
- Reduced muscle mass.
- Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs).
- Reduced libido.
- Bone strength (increased risk of osteoporosis).
- Increased vulnerability to heart disease and stroke.
How can menopausal symptoms impact people at work?
- 65% of survey respondents reported problems with concentration.
- 58% said they felt more stressed.
- 52% reported feeling less patient when working with clients and colleagues.
- 30% reported taking sick leave due to menopausal symptoms.
- Of this 30%, only 25% were able to tell their manager their absence was due to menopausal symptoms (Women and Equalities Committee, 2022).
5 ways workplaces can support menopausal employees
- Normalise conversations about menopause and hormonal changes in the workplace by participating in events like Menopause Awareness Day, setting up a regular employee support group and sharing information.
- Allow flexibility around the working day. Some menopausal people may have sleep difficulties which may impact their work in the morning. Others may feel more physically comfortable working from home.
- Provide desk fans or adapt office seating plans to make individuals experiencing hot flushes more comfortable.
- Allow more frequent comfort breaks.
- Allow alterations to workplace uniforms to increase comfort.
BUPA (2021), Written evidence from Bupa [MEW0046], accessed October 2022
CIPD, “Majority of working women experiencing the menopause say it has a negative impact on them at work | CIPD”, accessed October 2022
Health & Her Ltd (2021) A fact-based focus on Perimenopause and Menopause issues faced by women [MEW0054], accessed October 2022
Women and Equalities Committee (2022) Fourth Special Report of Session 2021–22, Menopause and the workplace survey results, HC 1157.