What will new guidance mean for menopause support in the workplace?

guidance menopause workplace
  • New guidance offers advice on reasonable adjustments employers can make, but these will vary depending on an employees’ role and an employer’s sector.
  • Employers should adapt their policies according to the guidance to promote fairness and inclusivity in the workplace.
  • It also highlights how to encourage employees to open up about their experiences and how to involve the whole workforce in conversations.

In February 2024, The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published new guidance on menopause in the workplace to provide practical tips on making reasonable adjustments and fostering positive conversations about the condition with employees, so that staff feel able to talk about their symptoms and ask for adjustments.

Its aim was also to clarify employers’ legal obligations, as they are required to make reasonable adjustments and not discriminate against an employee if their menopause symptoms have a long-term and substantial impact on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities under the Equality Act 2010, when it can be considered a disability.

Menopause has been more widely spoken about in the media in recent years, helping to reduce the stigma around what has historically been a taboo subject. It has also risen higher on employers’ wellbeing agendas due to menopausal women becoming a fast-growing workforce demographic, and a growing awareness about physical and mental menopausal symptoms and how these impact employee performance and absenteeism.

Deirdre O’Neill, co-founder of Hertility, says: “Menopause policies and benefits have also emerged as important factors for delivering successful gender parity strategies and retaining diverse teams.”

Research into the subject has also produced some thought-provoking statistics. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s October 2023 report Menopause in the workplace: employee experiences in 2023 found that two-thirds of the women it surveyed have been negatively affected at work by menopausal symptoms, with one in six revealing they considered leaving their job and 6% admitting they actually left due to lack of support.

This suggests that the guidance has arrived at the right time and will help advise employers which do not already have menopause support in place on the best course of action.

Adhering to the guidance

The guidance indicates that employers need to offer reasonable adjustments to support staff with menopausal symptoms. However, what constitutes a reasonable adjustment will differ depending on the employer, employee and the type of work and industry. Typical examples of support for the menopause include flexible working and work-from-home days, and regular breaks.

Bev Taylor, menopause trainer and coach at Wellness Cloud, says: “Adjustments can also include offering additional uniforms for employees to change in the working day, if they’re struggling with incontinence, menstrual flooding or severe sweats.”

The new guidance sets out the legal parameters for which cases require workplace adjustments, because if the impact is severe enough it can be classed as a disability. It also explains ways in which employers can encourage a culture where staff feel able to talk about their symptoms and how they can involve the whole workforce in conversations.

“Fostering a culture of inclusion where women can comfortably voice their concerns to managers is essential for this guidance to be exercised successfully,” says O’Neill. “Further education for all employees and senior managers around menopause and its impacts is crucial.”

In order to fully adhere to the guidance, employers may want to consider having a robust menopause policy in place, working towards menopause accreditation, training employees to become menopause champions, or raise awareness through education and webinars. These will show that an organsiation is aware of the issues and wants to support employees.

Eileen Burbidge, director at Fertifa, says: “Having a policy in place, irrespective of what it specifically allows for, or includes, will highlight that menopause is genuinely considered and that the organisation is a safe space for affected employees.”

Healthcare benefits can sometimes offer specific support: some private medical insurance (PMI) policies have specific helplines or access to trained menopause medical professionals that are either included or available at an additional cost.

Debra Clark, head of wellbeing at Towergate Health and Protection, says: “Symptoms can be eased with massages, acupuncture or physiotherapy accessed through a health cash plan. Both private medical insurance and health cash plans, as well as some group risk benefits, can support the potential mental health impact the menopause can cause through employee assistance programmes or mental health services.”

Impact of support

The EHRC is encouraging employers to adapt their policies and practices according to the guidance to ensure fairness and inclusivity in the workplace. If menopause symptoms adversely affect women’s work, this can lead to lower productivity, higher absence rates and potentially leaving their roles, resulting in fewer women in senior leadership positions.

“Employers could be losing women from the workplace at the very time when they carry so much experience and diversity of thought, reaction and emotion,” says Clark. “Looking after employees and their wellbeing is the right thing to do, and there is also a strong business case to ensure loyal, present and productive staff are retained.”

It is important to offer support to staff, not only to fulfil the new guidance, but to support overall employee health, adds Taylor. “Workplaces that are openly supportive about the menopause get the most out of their staff, particularly those that offer easy, yet meaningful, adjustments.”

Through the combined efforts of the guidance and menopause support, employees can manage their health in a way that works for them. It is a crucial step toward inclusive workplaces that truly value women in the workforce.