In 2020 there were over 650 million women aged 45- 59, many contributing to the workforce throughout their menopausal years
October signifies World Menopause Month, the first held in October 2014, and the theme for 2022 is “Cognition & Mood”. It is a time to raise awareness, address support options for improving the wider health & wellbeing, and of course jointly looking at ways, globally, we can break down the barriers, which for many has become a “taboo” subject, in order for this to be widely and freely discussed without a stigma being attached.
The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee (UK) recently reported that over a third of women reported taking time off work due to menopause symptoms, which included problems with memory or concentration, anxiety/ depression and headaches. Additionally, a third of women didn’t tell work colleagues or Human Resources they were going through the menopause as were worried about the reaction of others!
As with other health & wellbeing related areas, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with the menopause at work, and with a steady rise of information becoming available (and misinformation) can be overwhelming and confusing. Whilst the menopause isn’t a mental health condition, changes in hormones during menopause can impact mental health as well as a woman’s physical health.
A key challenge for Human Resources is how to embed a robust wellbeing strategy across different countries.
In 2020 there were over 650 million women aged 45- 59, many contributing to the workforce throughout their menopausal years. The menopausal transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55 but can sometimes happen earlier naturally, and usually lasts about seven years but can be as long as 14 years. The duration can depend on lifestyle factors such as smoking, age it begins, and race and ethnicity.
Workplace health and wellbeing frameworks and policies should therefore incorporate menopausal health as part of the wider context of gender and age equality and reproductive and post-reproductive health. With menopausal women now the fastest-growing workforce demographic, menopause is no longer an issue employers can ignore!
A 2021 report by the Fawcett Society, found that more than half of women and transgender men experiencing menopause said their symptoms had made them less likely to want to apply for a promotion (Menopause in the Workplace: Impact on Women in Financial Services (Fawcett Society, 2021).
Meanwhile, when looking at menopause In Australia, where women make up 57% of the higher-education workforce and 78% of the health and social-care sector, a survey last year of menopausal women working in health care and universities discovered that many felt guilty about their perceived underperformance. (Riach, K. & Jack, G. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 18, 10793 (2021).
In 2019 a UK survey of 1,400 women experiencing menopause symptoms found that nearly two-thirds were less able to concentrate at work, more than half experienced more stress and nearly one-third took sick leave because of symptoms.
The reality is these are not isolated results, but the Australian study identified respondents disagreeing on whether employers should introduce menopause-specific policies. Some felt such policies might marginalise older female workers.
Looking at Turkey – following research undertaken (ending January 2020) by Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, they went on to recommend that the Turkish health system should design wider health promotional programmes and counselling services to promote positive attitudes towards menopause in women during the climacteric period. This research was carried out to assess the attitudes towards menopause in Turkey, in order to plan more comprehensive healthcare pathway promotions. The recommendations made followed responses of two-thirds of participating women experiencing the menopause reported it has / had a negative impact on them.
Meanwhile, in the UK, Channel 4 recently surveyed over 4,000 UK women, aged 45-55 and experiencing the perimenopause or menopause. The results were staggering! 77% of women experienced at least one “very difficult” symptom and 69% experienced some form of anxiety or depression due to the menopause. Meanwhile, inflexible dress codes were shown to cause discomfort, particularly for key workers and women working in semi-skilled and unskilled manual operations roles.
Nowadays, more and more companies are starting to realise the accepted traditional benefits offering is no longer relevant or appropriate, and the one-size-fits-all approach is a thing of the past.
Head of Group Human Resources
T +43 664 962 39 18