Why has menopause support shot up the health and wellbeing agenda?

  • The Covid-19 pandemic changed what employees expect from their employer, with many now looking for increased support in all aspects of their lives, particularly their health and wellbeing.
  • Prioritising workplace support will not only have health benefits for staff, but will also help to improve productivity, retain valuable talent, and reduce the gender pay gap.
  • Supporting menopausal women at work allows for advocacy for them in the workplace and can highlight a commitment to employee wellbeing.

The subject of the menopause has become much more prevalent over the past few years: 23 employment tribunals cited the menopause in 2021, which is a 44% increase on 2020 figures according to an analysis of court records by Menopause Experts Group in its annual The trial of menopause report published in June. Many employers have introduced apps, dedicated support for staff and have received menopause-friendly workplace accreditation. But why has the topic shot up so many employer’s health and wellbeing agendas?

Change in focus

The need to improve diversity in the workplace has seen employers work on their appeal to prospective employees and support their female staff. This was further reinforced by the global pandemic and Covid-19 (Coronavirus) lockdowns, which led to an increase in employers revising their wellbeing priorities.

Following this, mental health and wellbeing has been top of the agenda for many employers which are now looking further at this type of support, says Eileen Burbidge, executive director of Fertifa. “It’s impossible to ignore that hormonal health journeys and the menopause can be extremely debilitating and career impacting for women to suffer without workplace support,” she explains. “Fortunately, employers are now responding to these trends and looking at initiatives to support employees from all groups, including menopausal women.”

As the topic moves up the corporate agenda, elements such as female health and the menopause will require a greater focus, says Debra Clark, head of specialist consulting at Towergate Health and Protection. “Employers are in a great place to do this as employee benefit propositions continue to broaden and offer more services and advice,” she says. “Offering these benefits and support will help them to recruit and retain the right people.”

Diversity trends

Perhaps another driving factor behind why the subject is towards the top of employers’ agendas is the makeup of the workforce. Due to more employees working longer into their lives, a considerable proportion of the workforce will be experiencing menopause symptoms, so the need to provide support becomes more important.

There have been various initiatives to improve gender diversity in the workplace, such as the Women in Finance Charter, which is a pledge for gender balance across financial services. This has led to organisations supporting women’s health in the workplace to both retain and attract talent.

Dr Jane Benjamin, chair of the HCA Healthcare UK Primary Care Menopause Group, says: “In line with this shifting demographic, there has also been a much broader recognition for the impact an individual’s physical and mental health can have on those around them. In this instance, the menopause is not just a gender issue. It can also have an impact on workers or those supporting someone going through it. As such, businesses have started to take note and are finally considering it as an organisational and not a personal issue.”

Employers which take a proactive stance to supporting pre-, mid- and post- menopausal staff may find they retain more of their workforces overall, as employees across all ages and genders work with those experiencing symptoms whether they know it or not.

The menopause is being seen as a business issue rather than simply a medical or womens’ problem, says Heather Jackson, co-founder of GenM. “It’s crucial to take the menopause into consideration in every division of business, not just HR or for diversity and inclusion reasons, so everybody is included in the conversation for a more positive future for the menopause. While it’s brilliant to see it reaching the top of wellbeing agendas, the menopause is no longer just a responsibility for HR as it impacts everyone and every area of a business.”

Increasing support

The menopause and the workplace report, which was published in April 2022 by the Fawcett Society and Channel 4, found that one in four women consider giving up work because of the impact of menopausal symptoms and around one in 10 leave their jobs because of it.

Therefore, employers are seeing that by supporting staff at this time, they can demonstrate not just that they are caring and responsible, but also that they acknowledge the impact menopause is having on their business as well as individuals, says Kathy Abernethy, director of menopause at Peppy.

Meanwhile, Towergate Health and Protection has seen an increase in clients asking about what support they can give their staff around the condition, according to Clark. “This is for a number of reasons, including appreciation of menopausal women in the workplace being the fastest growing demographic, the great resignation, staff asking for it and the Davina McCall effect following more openly publicised media coverage,” she says.

Due to the menopause often being treated as a taboo topic in the workplace, there have been issues of menopause discrimination. Indeed, the menopause was mentioned 207 times in employment tribunals in 2021, a 75% increase from 2020.

The menopause is a health and wellbeing concern that employers may want to consider under their duty of care to their employees, while also revising policies they have in place to ensure all employees are receiving the support and care they need. This can avoid issues that are not only detrimental to womens’ health, but also the economy, business growth and womens’ wider place in the workforce.

Advantages to offering menopause aid

As the menopause often starts to impact women when they are at the height of their careers in terms of skills and experience, prioritising workplace support will not only have health and wellbeing benefits, but will also help to improve productivity, retain valuable talent, and reduce the gender pay gap among the workforce.

Any support put in place for those going through menopause can benefit the whole organisation, whether this comprises improved manager communications, education for staff or individual personalised programmes of support.

Staff retention and reduction in menopause-related absences is a key advantage for employers, as women who are well supported are likely to stay with their employer, says Christine Husbands, managing director at RedArc. “Support can also be offered via the telephone by nurses who understand the issues and can offer personalised support, so it’s a relatively easy benefit for employers to offer,” she says.

Offering better support to menopausal women can also help to reflect employers’ commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion. Supporting menopausal women at work allows for advocacy for them in the workplace and can highlight a commitment to employee wellbeing.

Examples of successful support

Employers can offer many avenues of support for staff, such as adapting an employee benefits package to include flexible working hours, dedicated wellbeing support, and external signposting to established and accurate websites or charities or menopause-specific support services to name a few.

Running webinars for those who are seeking a greater understanding of the menopause can also help, says Clark. “It is really important to give the right information to everyone, as this isn’t just a female issue, it affects everyone,” she says. “We’ve seen that webinars in conjunction with specialist menopause providers attract the highest number of attendees of any of the ones we run”

The fact menopause is firmly sitting on many employers’ health and wellbeing agendas is perhaps no surprise considering that 4.5 million women aged between 50 and 64, the age when the menopause most commonly occurs, are currently in employment, according to the House of Commons Committee’s Menopause in the workplace report published in July 2022. The government has two months to respond to the report’s recommendations, so the menopause is likely to remain firmly in the spotlight.