In recent news, the UK government has rejected a proposal to introduce “menopause leave” pilots in England.
This has now left many women and businesses wondering what this means for menopause support in the workplace, and how women and workplaces can continue to support menopause without this proposed leave.
What was the proposed “Menopause Leave” pilot?
The UK Women and Equalities Committee proposed the “menopause leave” pilot to allow women going through menopause a set amount of paid leave per year to help cope with the challenges of menopause. These challenges include symptoms like hot flushes, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and memory problems. All of which can have a profound impact on women in the workplace.
The initiative’s influence was also set to assist employers facing issues such as reducing their gender pay gap by allowing women to take leave without sacrificing their income or employment. It was also intended to reduce the stigma associated with menopause and make it easier for women to talk to their employers about their symptoms.
The government has said the focus will be on encouraging employers to implement workplace menopause policies, they add: “We are concerned that specific menopause leave may be counterproductive to achieving this goal.”
As part of the announcement, the government also said it would not launch a consultation on amending the Equality Act to make menopause a protected characteristic, meaning that it could not be discriminated against in the workplace.
Why is menopause now a pressing issue in the workplace?
Women of menopausal age make up the fastest-growing demographic of the UK workforce and the symptoms of menopause can be disruptive to a woman’s day-to-day life, making it difficult to work at full potential. This can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and lower job satisfaction, all of which can have a negative impact on a woman’s career.
Despite this being a natural, biological process that all women will go through, menopause is still a taboo subject in the workplace, and many still feel uncomfortable discussing it with their employers. This lack of open dialogue can also make it difficult for employers to provide the necessary support and accommodations that individuals need to manage their menopause symptoms.
Leaving the Workforce Due to Menopause
When menopause is not adequately supported in the workplace, some may seek to leave their positions.
Did you know?
- 1 in 4 women considers leaving their job due to menopause. 1 in 10 actually do.
- 85% say there is nobody in the workplace to turn to about their struggles with menopause.
- 75% of menopausal women felt unable to tell their manager the real reason for their absence.
- 50% of working women have reduced their hours due to menopause symptoms.
This can have a significant impact on a woman’s career trajectory and her overall financial security in the future, leading to issues like the gender pension gap.
So what can companies do to support those going through menopause?
Though the “menopause leave” pilot was rejected, leave may not actually be the answer to supporting women in the workplace, Kathy Abernethy, Chief Nursing Officer and Director of Menopause Services, Peppy said:
“While we welcome this focus on menopause as a workplace issue – approval of sick leave just isn’t the answer here. While it’s true many individuals do take time off work due to menopausal symptoms, what colleagues really need is easy access to information and appropriate treatment to effectively manage those symptoms.
Many workplaces can and do offer great support, which is very important, but access to treatment, whether that is HRT, lifestyle changes, nutritional support or therapy approaches (or often all of these) – is essential, and workplaces who support their people to make informed decisions around treatment choices, may find that absence is far less common.”
Peppy has recently launched its Menopause Support Checklist. The checklist will help ensure that employers, HR, benefits and people teams have all the necessary tools and resources to provide effective menopause support. It covers how to tackle the menopause taboo, create a menopause-friendly workplace environment, and a culture of support and provide practical, personalised support to those struggling with their symptoms.
The rejection of the “menopause leave” pilot may on the surface seem like a setback for menopause support in the workplace.
However, companies can still make an effort to support women during menopause by providing education, offering flexible work policies, creating a safe space for women to discuss menopause, and providing access to medical professionals through dedicated support systems like Peppy.