Employers are being urged to develop more inclusive and supportive workplace cultures and managerial styles to help menopausal women feel comfortable discussing their symptoms and requesting support.
The call is among a series of recommendations from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) in response to a UK Government inquiry into menopause and the workplace which it is making public ahead of World Menopause Day, which took place on October 18th.
The inquiry was launched after a survey found that three in five menopausal women were negatively affected at work by their symptoms, with nearly 900,000 women in the UK leaving their jobs over an undefined amount of time because of it.
While there are examples of good practice in some workplaces, IOSH believes a concerted effort is required to support women to ensure they not only remain in their jobs but are able to flourish.
The institution, which represents more than 47,000 health and safety professionals around the world, recommends a number of measures, which include:
- Considering whether existing policies and procedures cater for the psychosocial needs of menopause-related issues, for example whether they can introduce flexible working patterns
- Ensuring risk assessments consider specific risks to menopausal women and identify reasonable adjustments for individuals
- Developing awareness, training and education strategies that raise understanding of the menopause and associated symptoms, their impact on work and potential solutions
- Following the advice of health and safety professionals based on the outcomes of age – and gender – sensitive health risk assessments, including potential changes in functional capacities
- Developing more inclusive and supportive workplace cultures and managerial styles that make women feel comfortable disclosing symptoms or requesting adjustments to support them with symptoms.
Dr Karen Michell, an occupational health specialist at IOSH, said: “Menopause can and often does have physical, mental and emotional effects on women and their ability to cope with work. Yet very few workplaces and managers are knowledgeable on how to address work-related menopause issues and the preventive role that occupational health and safety can play.
“This is concerning. As with other health issues, women, and in particular women of ethnic minorities, should feel comfortable being able to discuss their symptoms with line managers and other colleagues and be able to request additional support which helps them in their roles.
“We encourage employers to approach menopause in the workplace with a more holistic view that puts the spotlight on providing effective management practices, practical support and the adoption of a workplace culture of an open nature for those experiencing symptoms rather than solely focusing on superficial initiatives, such as the development of a specific policy on menopause.”