The menopause is a natural occurrence for women which happens usually in a woman’s late forties or early fifties, however for some it can occur earlier or later. The first stage is what is known as the perimenopause which sometimes can be mistaken for early menopause.
Women experience the menopause differently and there is a wide range of symptoms related to menopause, some of these include hot flushes, poor sleep, headaches, low moods and lack of concentration or confidence.
Symptoms can last for approximately four years, but it has been known for this to be longer. These symptoms can affect employees in various ways and with more older employees remaining in the workplace numbers are likely to increase.
For employees going through the menopause it can be a very hard and stressful time for them and is also a very personal matter.
Employers need to be careful how they deal with an employee going through the menopause, employers have a duty to look after the health and wellbeing of their employees and due to the sensitivity of the matter; IF employees do not get the right support that is needed, then there is the risk the employee could lose confidence to do their job, suffer from mental health conditions including stress, anxiety and depression and may even leave their job.
There is no “right for time off” for women to go to medical appointments for the menopause, but it is good practice for employers to allow employees to attend such appointments, this time off can be unpaid or paid depending on an employee’s terms and conditions of employment.
Many employees experiencing the menopause will not tell their employers this is the issue, some will have time of work due to symptoms, but they may not disclose the real reason for their absence. This can be because they:
- Feel its private and personal and they may be embarrassed
- They do not know their manager well enough
- Their manager is male or younger than them and they feel he may be unsympathetic
- They do not trust that it will be kept confidential
- Their problems and health issues will not be taken seriously
- They could be deemed incapable of doing their job
- Chances of promotion may be affected
How employers can help employees experiencing menopause
Employers should always aim to promote and drive for a diverse and inclusive workplace, to help achieve this can they should encourage an environment that supports female employees who are experiencing the menopause. The cost to employers to recruit employees when someone leaves can be extremely high.
Line managers do not have to be trained to be experts on the menopause or dealing with employees who are experiencing it; they just need to be aware and know how they can help, or what kind of support an employee may need. Managers need to know the basics and how it can affect their female employees.
Employers need to look at implementing a policy and train all leaders on the policy, this will help them to be able to have a conversation with their employees on the topic; know and understand how menopause can affect their employees; what support they may need and understand the law that menopause comes under.
By having a policy in place and knowing that managers have been trained to understand the affects; female employees can have the confidence to discuss their situation at work. Alternatively an employer could appoint a person that employees could go and talk to in confidence, this would usually be a member of the HR department, an Occupational Health nurse or a trade union representative.
Other ways employers can support are:
Making sure health and safety checks are adequate
Employers need to ensure that they minimise or reduce where possible any workplace H&S risks for their employees through ensuring any menopausal symptoms are not increased by the workplace and making changes to assist employees with any symptoms while they are carrying out their job.
Manage sickness levels or job performance
Manage an employee’s sickness absence from work due to menopause symptoms in an appropriate manner, because it is a long-term health change. It is reasonable to make any adjustments required to help the employee. Any absence relating to the menopause should be recorded on an employees file separately so they can be easily referred to and taken out of an employee’s overall attendance record.
The two areas of law that may relate to menopause are:
- The Equality Act 2010 which protects employees against discrimination, on the grounds of sex, disability and age.
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which says where reasonably possible an employer must ensure health, safety and welfare at work.
There has already been a couple of employment tribunals that have been in favour of the employee in menopause related cases, this was because the menopause can be covered under the Equality Act 2010 under sex, age or disability.
As an employer you should not want any issues with an employee to get as far as a tribunal, so by taking steps early on to support employees the risk can be minimised.
Copyright Clover HR