How can employers better support female employees going through the menopause?


Need to know:

  • Women going through the menopause can experience physical and psychological symptoms, such as hot flushes, sleeplessness and poor concentration.
  • Specific line manager training or awareness events can equip managers to have conversations with staff around coping with menopausal symptoms at work.
  • Benefits and initiatives such as an employee assistance programme (EAP) and a flexible working policy can help women adjust to menopausal symptoms.

The menopause has, rather literally, become a hot topic for corporate agendas, as an increasing number of professional bodies recognise the potentially detrimental effect on women’s wellbeing in the workplace.

The Faculty of Occupational Medicine released online guidance for helping menopausal employees in 2016, closely followed by The Work Foundation’s More than women’s issues: women’s reproductive and gynaecological health and work report, published in June 2017; a review by the Department for Education, titled The effects of menopause transition on women’s economic participation in the UK, was published in July 2017.

Deborah Garlick, director at Henpicked, and Menopause in the Workplace, says: “Menopausal women is the fastest growing demographic in the UK workforce. It’s not a minority number.”

What can employers do to support female employees who are experiencing menopausal symptoms at work?

What symptoms can impact menopausal women?

According to What do working menopausal women want? A qualitative investigation into women’s perspectives on employer and line manager support, published in April 2017 by Claire Hardy et al, 25% of women experience menopause symptoms that affect the quality of their personal and working lives.

This can include physical symptoms, such as hot flushes, night sweats and aches and pains, as well as psychological symptoms, including sleeplessness, poor concentration, anxiety and depression. Garlick explains: “[Psychological symptoms are] very often [the] overlooked symptoms of menopause, which of course are very important in the workplace.”

In addition, workplace stress can exacerbate symptoms such as hot flushes, says Myra Hunter, professor of clinical health psychology at King’s College London. “[There can be] a vicious cycle, so work stress can make hot flushes worse, but if [an employee has] got bad hot flushes, [they] feel more stressed. The two need to be tackled,” she says.

However, employers need to be careful not to generalise about symptoms, adds Garlick. “It’s not all women that will experience menopausal symptoms,” she explains. “Three out of four women experience symptoms, one in four women experience serious symptoms and it’s the one in four that need the most help.”

Raising awareness and education

Awareness days, educational courses and workshops can prove helpful, directing employees to internal or external support, and offering tips on how to have conversations with health professionals. Crucially, these events should be available for both men and women. Garlick says: “This isn’t a women’s issue. This is something that everybody needs to understand.”

Employers could include a women’s health component within their health and wellbeing strategy, adds Hunter, while employee support groups and HR champions could facilitate menopause conversations.

Including a section on the menopause as part of mandatory diversity training would also raise awareness, adds Hunter. Garlick agrees: “Having a culture where [the] menopause can be discussed openly and without embarrassment is very important. It’s important there’s accessible information both in terms of what menopause is and how the employer is supporting it.”

Manager attitudes

Hunter explains that, according to her research, most women do not want their manager to broach the subject of menopause with them, but rather to be open so that employees feel comfortable starting a conversation, if they want to. Equally, this basic understanding can enable managers to initiate discussions if they notice someone struggling.

Employers could introduce menopause awareness events alongside a manager’s usual training, or implement age awareness training, which could also look at male age-related health concerns. “Many line managers are a little bit nervous about having conversations about menopause because they don’t know an awful lot about it. That line manager support makes all the difference for women going through this,” adds Garlick.

Utilising benefits

Colin Hawes, head of group income protection claims and medical underwriting at Generali Employee Benefits UK, says: “There should be some sort of support network for employees such as employee assistance programmes, which allow things like cognitive behaviour therapy or talking therapies.”

Employers should be open to flexible working arrangements that could, for example, allow women to start and finish work later, or enable home working during disrupted sleeping patterns. In addition, employers could provide flexibility around break times, to cater to unexpected hot flushes. Allowing time off to attend doctor’s appointments is also valuable. “Those are signs of a positive attitude and a supportive attitude towards menopause,” Hunter says.

Practical considerations

Air conditioning units, desk fans and access to cold drinks and open windows can help combat hot flushes, while easy access to nearby toilets can reassure women experiencing heavy bleeding during the peri-menopausal phase.

Uniform material and style should also be re-examined. For example, using synthetic fabrics or multiple layers can worsen hot flushes. “They’re small things that make a world of difference to a woman,” says Garlick.


Good internal communications can encourage employees to take up support measures, says Amanda Griffiths, professor of occupational health psychology at the University of Nottingham. “There needs to be a culture in the organisation where discussing health openly and without fear that it would have any negative consequences is encouraged,” she adds.

Communications could include videos, emails posters, booklets, guides and articles in internal magazines. Face-to-face communications, however, are particularly effective.

Hawes adds: “It’s about having an open discussion. The responsibility of the employers is that they promote the fact that there are those vehicles available to employees, that they can openly discuss without fear of embarrassment.”