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How to make your company more menopause friendly

Today is World Menopause Day, founded to raise awareness of the menopause and the support options available for improving health and wellbeing.

Photo by insta_photos

The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. Periods usually start to become less frequent over a few months or years before they stop altogether. Sometimes they can stop suddenly.

The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman's oestrogen levels decline. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51. Despite the menopause affecting over half of the population, many individuals feel they’re unsupported in this area both personally and professionally.

A recent poll we did found that 95% of participants feel unsupported at work during their menopause.

Participants went on to explain what organisations need to consider, with one person from the US saying:

"This is a topic that needs to be discussed more, especially in the work force. The brain fog and confusion, weight gain, are real symptoms of menopause. It’s not our fault, yet for many their work performance is judged on this. All people need to be educated and learn to have an open mind to other’s struggles."

A UK-based person, whose role is to develop a culture for mental wellbeing in organisations, said:

"A good employer should create an environment where someone who is suffering (menopause or otherwise) to come forward for help and support. And a good absence management system to enable conversations to take place if persistent absence is the result of menopausal symptoms."

"Show compassion and empathy because the journey can be hard enough without having to hide it and suffer at work"

She continued: "This will allow adjustments and support to be offered - including things like, position of desk of office based near a window for example, access to fans and refreshing items. Flexibility of start times or short term absence and not forgetting things like leniency in performance should cognitive issues occur, counselling to support mental well-being. But above to show compassion and empathy because the journey can be hard enough without having to hide it and suffer at work."

One person from Australia said their workplace offers their employees six days of paid leave per year to take time off and manage symptoms of menstruation and menopause, without having to provide a medical certificate. This is separate from personal sick leave and mental health leave. The policy was pioneered by Victorian Women’s Trust, a gender equality agency in Australia.

"All people need to be educated and learn to have an open mind to other’s struggles."

Many corporates are now talking about menopause policies and adjustments. Whilst this comes from good intentions, menopause-tracking app Balance say that letting women have flexible or reduced hours does not solve the issue. In fact, they say it can intensify the lack of diversity in top positions, as women are being side lined and their chances of promotion disappear.

They believe that workplaces need to teach women about how the menopause can affect them, discuss the treatment options available, and support them on that journey - rather than simply providing a fan for their desk.

Dr Louise Newson, a leading menopause expert, was frustrated by the huge unmet need for menopause education and access to treatment, as well as the unnecessary suffering of women. She founded the free Balance app to empower women and speed up access to clinical diagnosis.

Earlier this year, she joined a panel with The Female Lead to discuss the lack of education that exists around the menopause, and what the solutions are to make workplaces and medical settings more menopause friendly.

So what can we do to make the menopause more mainstream in the workplace?

1) Take charge and educate yourself

No one knows your body as well as you. It can be difficult to pinpoint when to seek advice or know whether symptoms are related to your hormones. The Balance app allows women to have personalised expert information, track their symptoms, download their health report to take to their GP or healthcare professional as evidence, and have access to a support community of like-minded women.

2) Ask for your hormones back

The menopause should be seen as a hormone deficiency and there is incredibly effective treatment known as HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) to alleviate the symptoms of the perimenopause and the menopause. Women who take HRT also have a lower risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, dementia and cancer. HRT is recommended by the NHS as the first line treatment for menopause symptoms because the benefits outweigh the risks for the majority of women. Yet only 10% of women in the UK take HRT - this needs to change!

3) Shake up your board and make them realise the impact that the menopause has on your workforce. Get a top-down approach with buy-in from the CEO.

4) Get your head out of the sand and talk about it

Your internal comms team is essential in helping your company break the taboos. Educating line managers is vital to ensure conversations are taking place within the right framework, helping them to understand how they can deliver the best support.

5) Create a task-force and build a plan, appoint menopause champions, and offer specific and evidence-based menopause support solutions for your employees.

6) Demand Access to treatment and consultations in the workplace.

Push for the right to have access to specialist advice, treatment and consultations in the workplace, organised by your company to ensure end-to-end care for you


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