CIPD calls on employers to break taboo and improve support for working women

Three out of five (59%) working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work. This is according to new research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the professional body for HR and people development.

In response, the CIPD has launched free guidance on managing the menopause at work, to help break the silence surrounding the topic. It emphasises that even small changes like having a fan or access to flexible working can make a big difference to how women manage their symptoms and thrive in their jobs.

Women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing group in the workforce, and the average age for the menopause transition is 51. As more women go through the menopause during their working lives, it’s vital that employers encourage open discussions to ensure they get the right support.

A range of symptoms

The menopause transition can include a range of symptoms, which, on average, last for four years. The CIPD’s research surveyed 1,409 women experiencing menopause symptoms and was led by YouGov. Those who were affected negatively at work reported the following issues:

  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) said they were less able to concentrate.
  • More than half (58%) said they experienced more stress.
  • More than half (52%) said they felt less patient with clients and colleagues.

Nearly a third of women surveyed (30%) said they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms, but only a quarter of them felt able to tell their manager the real reason for their absence.

Privacy (45%) was the number-one consideration for women choosing not to disclose. A third (34%) said embarrassment prevented them from saying why they had to take time off, and another 32% said an unsupportive manager was the reason.

The need for better support is further highlighted by the fact that more women say they feel supported by their colleagues (48%) when going through the menopause than by their managers (32%).

To break the stigma associated with the menopause, the CIPD is recommending that employers educate and train line managers so that they are knowledgeable and confident to have sensitive conversations with staff about their symptoms and any adjustments that might be needed.

“Treat the menopause like any other health condition”

Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser for the CIPD, said: “It’s likely that nearly every workplace in the UK has someone experiencing the menopause right now, but many managers are in the dark on how best to support them. Rather than it being a workplace taboo, line managers should be ready to treat the menopause like any other health condition and have open, supportive conversations with women in their teams.

“Our guidance shows that if employers create a culture where everyone can talk openly about health issues, such as the menopause, women are much more likely to feel confident about asking for the support they need to be effective in their role. Mangers also need to work closely with their HR teams to understand what simple, practical adjustments can be made to help women feel more comfortable and able to manage their work.”

Minister for Women Victoria Atkins said: “I welcome the CIPD’s guidance for employers on supporting employees going through the menopause whilst working. 4.4 million women aged 50 to 64 are in work; it’s vital that their employers are supporting them to feel comfortable and confident at work, for their own sake and for the sake of our economy.”

Simple steps that will make a huge difference

The good news is that there are a number of simple steps that employers can take that will make a huge difference to individuals. The CIPD is recommending that these should be outlined in specific guidance that makes clear to both managers and employees what support is available to manage the menopause at work.

The most common symptoms reported by women in the CIPD’s survey are hot flushes (72%), sleep disturbances (64%) and night sweats (58%). Psychological issues (56%) such as mood swings, anxiety and memory loss were also widely reported.

To support women experiencing these symptoms, the CIPD’s guide suggests:​

  • giving women a later start time if their sleep pattern is disturbed
  • providing a desk fan to help with hot flushes
  • making sure women can take regular comfort breaks
  • allowing women to adapt their uniform to improve comfort levels.

If your workforce includes women between the ages of 45 and 55, email me or call me on 020 7099 2621 for further advice on implementing the CIPD’s recommendations.