- One of the first steps to consider is to set up a dedicated menopause policy, ensuring it links in to any existing wellbeing, and equality, diversity and inclusion policies.
- Employers should also ensure that websites and resources around types of HRT are up to date, offer links to information about HRT shortages and how best to access supplies.
- By providing accredited workshops, training to management staff and creating channels for support, employers can adequately prepare to assist employees.
Employees aged 50 and over are often cited as the fastest-growing workforce demographic, so it stands to reason that menopause support is an issue that should be at the forefront of all employers’ minds. Given that menopause-related news has increasingly made headlines, such as health and beauty retailer Boots covering the cost of its employees’ hormone replacement therapy (HRT) prescriptions from April this year, and current HRT shortages, employers may want to consider offering dedicated help. There are a number of practical tips for employers to follow on how to offer HRT support in the workplace.
Set up a dedicated support policy
One of the first steps for employers is to consider setting up a dedicated menopause and HRT support policy, ensuring it links in to any existing wellbeing, and equality, diversity and inclusion policies. By adopting a policy, not only does it set an employer apart from others by addressing menopause and the treatment of its symptoms in the workplace, but employees will also be aware of exactly what support is at their disposal.
Adding flexible working into the initiative may make it easier for employees to access HRT, says Deirdre O’Neill, co-founder at Hertility. “Recognising the impact the symptoms of menopause may have and putting a flexible-working and leave policy in place is crucial for helping menopausal women perform better at work,” she explains. “Providing flexible-working opportunities for employees to attend any medical consultations or appointments will alleviate stress and enable them to plan their working days accordingly.”
Employers may also have some pre-existing benefits available to help staff manage symptoms of menopause. These could include virtual GP access, employee assistance programme or advice helplines, discounted gym membership, physiotherapy, alternative therapies, nutritional advice, and prescription charges, says Debra Clark, head of specialist consulting at Towergate Health and Protection. “There are some specific benefits for the menopause also now available through health insurers and specialist providers as well,” she adds. “These focus on supporting people going through the menopause in whatever way is most suitable for the individual.”
Support through education
By educating employees of all ages about the menopause and providing them with the opportunity to learn about the treatment available, they will be equipped with the tools to advocate for their own health. Ensuring that websites and resources around types of HRT are up to date, and offering links to information about HRT shortages and how best to access supplies, is a good place to start.
Kathy Abernethy, director of menopause services at Peppy, says: “[Employers could] provide tips for a GP consultation, consider having a myths and truths of HRT factsheet available, host events that are open to all to increase business-wide education and offer training for managers in what is normal and how to broach conversations.”
By offering accredited workshops, training to management employees and creating channels for support, employers can adequately offer help to staff. Employers can also support both individuals going through menopause, as well as those with partners going through it by providing up to date, evidence-based information about the types of HRT available, the different ways it can be taken and the potential side effects and associated risks.
“For cases where HRT is not suitable, such as with those who have a history of breast cancer or hormone-dependent cancers, employers must provide information on all available non-hormonal options,” explains O’Neill.
Consider the legal ramifications
Although the menopause is not a disability, case law has established that the symptoms could amount to a disability for discrimination law purposes if they are sufficiently serious. As symptoms last on average for around four years, they are likely to meet the requirement to be long term.
Employers, therefore, need to consider possible reasonable adjustments, as well as ensuring that those going through the menopause are not treated in a discriminatory fashion or subjected to harassment. Alexandra Mizzi, legal director at Howard Kennedy, says: “It could potentially give rise to indirect sex or age discrimination claims, so it is important to view it through the lens of inclusion. Employers should consider actively what support menopausal or perimenopausal staff may need.”
Explore alternative types of support
Employers may want to ensure staff can open up and be honest about how they are feeling and what they are going through. Setting up support groups or champions within the business so people know where to go if they need to talk may be of use. This may be someone who has experienced menopause personally and can relate to the issues faced, who is also knowledgeable on workplace menopause policies.
Private GP services that have GPs with special interest in menopause for easy prescribing are also worth considering. “Implementing easy access fact sheets in toilets or coffee areas for example, easy access to changing and toilet facilities in case of period problems, and the provision of sanitary products in all bathrooms are additional options,” says Abernethy.
Finally, employers should look to partner with a specialised, knowledgeable reproductive healthcare provider. As O’Neill concludes: “This will help those going through the transition to menopause, providing perimenopause testing opportunities and supporting women to get access to HRT and further care sooner.”