The new UK Labour Government's mandate for companies to develop a Menopause Action Plan, as part of its Make Work Pay menifesto, is a significant step towards supporting women in the workplace. 
Gender does play a part in how people are treated at work. Being intentional with gender means that everyone has equal access to opportunities and support - more than just annual gender pay gap reporting, being mindful of ensuring equality for everyone irrespective of gender means addressing areas where different genders experience work differently. 
As HR professionals, you know it is crucial to create a comprehensive and effective plan that addresses the needs of menopausal employees. Think of it as a menopause pledge, setting out how people affected by menopause will experience the support your provide. 
Here are ten practical steps to incorporate into your Menopause Action Plan: 

1. Health assessments and follow-ups 

Incorporate regular health assessments, such as those offered by Verve Health Assessments. Ensure these assessments include follow-ups with healthcare professionals to monitor and manage menopause symptoms effectively. This proactive approach to occupational health can lead to early detection and management of symptoms, potentially reducing the impact menopause can have on work performance and overall well-being. 

2. Access to a GP 

Include provisions for employees to have access to private GP services, like those available through Verve On Demand. This allows employees to discuss any regular health concerns of menopause-related health concerns confidentially and receive personalised medical advice. Timely access to medical professionals and vital healthcare can significantly improve symptom management and reduce work absences. 

3. Mental health support 

Ensure that your plan provides access to mental health professionals who can address the emotional and psychological aspects of menopause. Services like Verve On Demand can offer mental health appointments tailored to these needs. Mental health support is crucial, and a clinical assessment helpful, as menopause can often lead to anxiety, depression, and mood swings, affecting both personal and professional life. 

4. Flexible working policies 

Implement flexible working arrangements to help employees manage their symptoms. This could include options for remote work, flexible start and finish times, and the ability to adjust working hours as needed. Flexibility can greatly enhance an employee's ability to manage symptoms like hot flushes or sleep disturbances, leading to improved productivity and job satisfaction. 

5. Workplace environment adjustments 

Make practical adjustments to the workplace environment to accommodate menopausal symptoms. This might involve providing fans, temperature-controlled areas, offering access to cold water, and allowing for more frequent breaks. These adjustments can significantly improve comfort and concentration for menopausal employees, enhancing their ability to perform effectively. 

6. Manager training programmes 

Develop and implement training programmes for managers to educate them about menopause and its impact on employees. This training should cover how to recognise symptoms, provide support, and make reasonable adjustments. Well-informed managers are better equipped to support their team members, fostering a more understanding and supportive work environment. 

7. Clear menopause policy 

Create a clear and comprehensive menopause policy. This policy should include menopause toolkits for employees outlining the support available, including menopause-related leave, flexible working options, occupational health and access to healthcare services. Consider establishing a menopause network for support and education. Clear policies to employees demonstrate the organisation's commitment to menopause care and provides a framework for consistent support across the company. 

8. Communication channels 

Establish open communication channels to encourage discussions about menopause. This can help reduce stigma, improve menopause awareness and ensure employees feel comfortable seeking support. Regularly share information and resources about menopause with all staff members. Open communication fosters a culture of understanding and support, making it easier for affected employees to seek help when needed. 

9. Legal compliance measures 

Ensure your Menopause Action Plan complies with legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010. This includes making reasonable adjustments for employees whose menopause symptoms significantly impact their daily activities and preventing discrimination based on age, sex, or disability. Check the government portal for information on legal requirements. Legal compliance not only protects the organisation and employment rights but also ensures fair and equal treatment for all employees. 

10. Regular monitoring and review 

Set up a system for regularly monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of your Menopause Action Plan. Gather feedback from employees, track the use of support services by female workers, and make necessary adjustments to continually improve the plan. Regular review ensures that the plan remains relevant and effective, adapting to the changing needs of employees and reducing menopause impact on them and on the organisation. 

Guidance for employers for Menopause Action Plans 

By incorporating these ten practical steps into your Menopause Action Plan, you can create a supportive and inclusive workplace for all employees. Save this post to help with developing your Menopause Action Plan and get in touch today to talk about how to include Verve Health Assessments and Verve On Demand into your Employee Assistance Programmes. 
Implementing a comprehensive Menopause Action Plan not only supports your employees but also enhances productivity and retention, ultimately reducing negative impacts and improving lives for your menopause friendly organisation as a whole. 

What is menopause? 

Menopause can be a challenging time for those directly affected and for those around them and supporting them. It is a natural biological process marking the end of a woman's reproductive years. It typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age in the UK being 51 but some premature menopause for people ages 40 to 45. Whatever age menopause happens, it can have a tremendous impact on women and on those supporting them. 
Menopause is officially diagnosed when a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period. However, the menopause transition phase leading up to menopause, known as perimenopause, can last several years and is when hormone levels start to change and symptoms begin to manifest. These can be severe symptoms or milder depending on the individual. 
The symptoms of menopause can vary widely among individuals and the impact varies, but menopausal symptoms commonly include: 
Irregular periods, especially in perimenopause 
Hot flushes and night sweats are a commonly-known characteristic of menopause 
Mood changes, including anxiety and depression 
Difficulty sleeping 
Fatigue, sometimes extreme fatigue and tiredness 
Reduced concentration and memory issues 
Joint pain 
Urinary problems 
Vaginal dryness 
These symptoms can have a substantial impact on a performance and well-being in the workplace. Hot flushes can be distracting and disruptive, especially during meetings or presentations. Fatigue and sleep disturbances can lead to reduced productivity and increased absenteeism.  
Cognitive symptoms like memory issues and reduced concentration may affect decision-making and overall job performance. Overall, the cost of menopause is more than just personal, with business and career impacts on the individual and the employer. The emotional aspects of menopause, such as mood swings and anxiety, can strain workplace relationships and communication. Some women may experience a loss of confidence, which can hinder career progression or lead to withdrawal from challenging tasks. 
Research shows that menopause symptoms can have severe consequences for women's careers. Around 10% of women leave their jobs due to menopause symptoms, while many more reduce their hours or pass up promotions. The impact of menopause and menopause-related absence not only affects individual women but also results in a significant loss of talent and experience for employers. 
Given that menopausal women are the fastest-growing demographic in the UK workforce, addressing these issues, educating the workforce, creating an inclusive workplace and making reasonable adjustments are a vital step for maintaining productivity and retaining valuable employees. 

Beyond the symptoms - changes within the body 

During menopause, a woman's body undergoes significant changes due to the decline in oestrogen and progesterone production. These hormonal shifts can be attributed to changes in health conditions and can affect the physical and emotional wellbeing of women. 
Bone health: The decrease in oestrogen levels can lead to accelerated bone loss, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Women may lose up to 20% of their bone density in the 5-7 years following menopause. This makes them more susceptible to fractures, particularly in the hips, spine, and wrists. 
Skin health: Oestrogen plays a crucial role in maintaining skin elasticity and hydration. As levels drop, women may experience drier, thinner skin and an increase in wrinkles. Collagen production also decreases, leading to less skin firmness and elasticity. 
Emotional health: Hormonal fluctuations can significantly impact mood and emotional well-being. Many women report experiencing mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression during menopause. These changes can be exacerbated by other symptoms like sleep disturbances and hot flushes. 
Cardiovascular health: Oestrogen helps protect the heart and blood vessels. Its decline during menopause can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 
Urogenital health: Lower oestrogen levels can lead to vaginal dryness, urinary tract infections, and incontinence. The vaginal tissues may become thinner and less elastic, which can cause discomfort during intercourse. 
Metabolic changes: Menopause often coincides with a slowing metabolism, which can lead to weight gain, particularly around the abdomen. This shift in fat distribution can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 
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