Lovewell’s logic: Ensuring support for menopausal staff

This week, the Women and Equalities Committee published a report calling on the government to act to amend the Equality Act, in order to introduce menopause as a protected characteristic, and to include a duty for employers to make reasonable adjustments for menopausal staff. This follows last month’s initial confirmation by Baroness Steadman-Scott, the minster for work and pensions and minister for women, that the government was not planning to introduce menopause as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, or to introduce dual discrimination.

The committee also recommended the appointment of a menopause ambassador, who would be tasked with helping to introduce model workplace policies covering how to request reasonable adjustments for menopausal staff, advice on flexible working and sick leave, and building a supportive culture.

The report and its recommendations recognise the scale of the impact on women when experiencing menopausal symptoms in the workplace, and the difference that could be achieved with the provision of support. With the average age of menopause currently 51 and perimenopause beginning some years prior – and 4.5 million women aged 50-64 currently in employment – this is an issue that will be experienced by almost all employers at some point.

According to the September 2020 study Menopausal transition and change in employment: Evidence from the National Child Development Study by Maria Evandrou, Jane Falkingham, Min Qin and Athina Vlachantoni, all from the University of Southampton, women who have experienced at least one problematic menopausal symptom are 43% more likely to have left their jobs by the age of 55 than those who have not experienced any severe symptoms.

This is supported by research published by Canada Life in April 2022, which found that 27% of women aged 45 to 65 who have been through the menopause experienced a negative effect on their career because of it, with 27% reporting feeling undervalued. In addition, 41% reported feeling unsupported by their employer, while 42% felt unable to speak to their line manager about their menopause experience.

This appears to have contributed to preventable staff turnover, with 19% saying they would be more likely to remain with their current employer if they felt better supported through the menopause.

In recent years, we have seen an increase in the number of employers, including Diageo, Tesco and Linklaters, publicly announcing policies to support members of staff going through the menopause. Many more, including the House of Commons, have signed the Menopause Workplace Pledge in order to support women in the workplace.

With so many of the working population experiencing menopause through the course of the career, it is certainly encouraging to see so many organisations taking action to support employees, regardless of government mandates.

Menopause, fertility and pregnancy is one of the conference streams featured at this year’s Employee Benefits Live on 6 October 2022. Delegates will be able to hear speakers including Debra Gardner, chief people officer at LSL Property Services, Laura Hocking, physical wellbeing manager at Adobe and Jacqui Elsden, chairperson at the British Association of Dental Nurses discuss their organisations’ support for employees’ reproductive health.

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Debbie Lovewell-Tuck
Editor
Tweet: @DebbieLovewell