At the Labour party conference earlier this week, Dawn Butler, the shadow women and equalities minister, announced plans to require all organisations with more than 250 employees to introduce a menopause workplace policy.
Under these measures, employers would be required to make various provision: allowing staff to work flexibly if needed, such as if they are experiencing disturbed sleep patterns; ensuring absence policies are flexible to accommodate the menopause as a long-term fluctuating health condition; providing line manager training about the symptoms and the adjustments that may be required; and carrying out risk assessments to consider the specific needs of menopausal women to ensure their working environment is not exacerbating their symptoms. In some cases, necessary adjustments may be as simple as providing a desk fan or ensuring adequate ventilation is in place.
The policy is also intended to open up conversations around the menopause and remove some of the stigma associated with it. Women aged over 50 are currently the fastest growing group within the workforce, while the average age for menopausal transition is 51.
Research published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in March this year, which surveyed more than 1,400 women experiencing menopausal symptoms, found that 59% of respondents aged between 45 and 55 said that symptoms have a negative impact on them at work. In addition, 65% find themselves less able to concentrate, 58% said they experience more stress, and 48% feel better supported by colleagues than by managers (30%).
With statistics such as these in mind, along with the current focus on inclusion, it makes sense that policies and support are extended to women going through the menopause.
Some employers, including Severn Trent and the University of Leicester, are already leading the way, opening up conversations around the menopause and taking steps to support affected staff.
While the political state of the nation remains so uncertain, however, it remains to be seen whether Labour’s plans will come to fruition. There can be little disputing, however, that the reasons behind its plans remain compelling, regardless of who ultimately holds power.
On a separate note, employee wellbeing and diversity and inclusion are just two of the areas that will be discussed at Employee Benefits Live 2019 next week, which will take place on 1 and 2 October at ExCel, London. I look forward to welcoming many of you there.