Around the world, menopause and other underserved areas of health are costing businesses billions.
These are the neglected areas of health that lack attention, support, and investment, despite being common issues.
Underserved areas of health include:
- Men’s health, including low testosterone, or prostate cancer
- Women’s health, such as conditions like endometriosis and PCOS
- LGBTQ+ health, including gender affirming care
Menopause is one of these underserved areas of health, which employers simply can’t afford to ignore anymore. Not only are unsupported menopausal symptoms costing businesses internally, but menopause support, and even “menopause leave”, is now a trending benefit which attracts talent.
Don’t underestimate how many people experience menopause.
By 2025, 12% of the global population will be going through menopause.
Yet, menopause is barely spoken of.
The stigma around menopause, as with most underserved areas, means people keep quiet and don’t share their symptoms. But that doesn’t mean it’s not impacting your workforce. In fact, it undoubtedly is. Menopause usually occurs to women or people born female between 45 and 55 years of age.
- In the UK, there are around 4.5 million women aged 50–64 currently in employment.
- Women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing group in the workforce.
- In the US, 20% of the workforce are women between the ages of 45 and 54.
Symptoms of menopause and perimenopause (the time when a person’s body is making the natural transition to menopause) include:
- hot flushes
- night sweats
- mood changes
- sleep disturbances
- joint aches
- brain fog
- and many more!
These are not private issues to be suffered in silence – they are impacting your workforce, right now.
There is no one size fits all, and each woman will experience menopause differently. Workplaces can fill the gaps by offering practical support and funding specialised healthcare services, benefiting both employees and employers.
How is menopause (majorly) underserved?
To begin with, the stark funding inequalities between men’s and women’s health – including menopause. Menopause is under-researched, as is the case with many diseases disproportionately impacting women in the US.
The fundamental lack of research and awareness surrounding menopause directly impacts the support women receive and is certainly not unique to the US.
A UK survey found that 36% of those who sought help from their General Practitioner (GP) for perimenopause symptoms, and 26% of those who sought help for menopause symptoms, say they visited their GP three times or more before being prescribed appropriate medication or help.
Women don’t want to “get on with it.” Who would? These symptoms can last five or more years. Left unsupported, the symptoms significantly impact women’s daily lives and work.
Menopause support is not only underserved, it’s unequal too. Ethnic minority and BPOC women struggle even more to receive the support they need. LGBTQ+ individuals feel left out of the conversation. The cost of menopause treatments makes it harder for low-income families to manage symptoms.
What is the cost of NOT providing menopause support?
Businesses ignoring menopause and its impact on their employees will not only feel it financially, but also in their efficiency, team dynamics and reputation.
Here’s the lowdown of what’s happening when women don’t receive support:
1. Women are leaving their jobs
Research shows that 50 year-old women who reported one problematic menopausal symptom at the age of 50 were 43% more likely to have left their jobs by the age of 55 and 23% more likely to have reduced their hours.
Because of their menopause symptoms, women are quitting their jobs (1 in 4 consider leaving work due to menopause symptoms, 1 in 10 actually do), working less and even forgoing career advancement opportunities (such as promotions). For businesses seeking to increase gender diversity, particularly at leadership level, the impact is catastrophic.
The cost of replacing an employee in the UK can reach upwards of £30,000 (re-training and recruitment costs). That’s a hefty business cost to potentially undertake by not providing dedicated menopause support.
Plus, women at menopausal age are often at the peak of their careers; leaders and mentors. That type of “soft” value is invaluable.
2. Women are resorting to sick leave and presenteeism while unwell
In the UK, the estimated cost of menopause to the economy is 14 million working days per year, in terms of time spent alleviating menopause symptoms.
To put a price on it, $1.8 billion is lost in work time (sick leave) per year due to the same symptoms in the US.
Imagine the potential costs saved by preventing the time off and attrition caused by under-supported menopause symptoms. Now, imagine the economic potential of all underserved areas of health.
3. Menopausal symptoms lead to less productive work
13% of women experienced an adverse work outcome related to menopause symptoms. Given menopausal symptoms include struggle to concentrate, increased stress and loss of confidence, it’s no surprise productivity is affected.
Exactly how much menopause-related lost efficiency is costing businesses is difficult (if not impossible) to measure.
Our guess? A small fortune.
4. Discrimination and lack of workplace support exacerbate the situation
Think sly, not-so-funny comments in response to a female colleague saying she’s hot, like “must be going through menopause”.
In the UK, only 12% of women seek workplace adjustments to relieve their menopausal symptoms. More than 25% of those who didn’t said they were ‘worried about the reaction.’
That means women suffering from symptoms stay quiet and businesses don’t even find out until they’re handing in a resignation note and it’s too late.
5. Businesses not offering menopause support risk falling behind
In today’s job market, employers’ brands are everything, and the benefits they offer form a significant part of that. With many businesses chasing gender equality goals for leadership positions, female-focused benefits, like menopause, are particularly key.
A growing number of companies, including Accenture and NatWest, offer menopause support. And it’s only an upwards trend. Research from REBA revealed that 85% of businesses already provide or plan to provide support for menopause within the next two years.
As employees increasingly value benefits the same, if not more, than salary, falling behind on competing employers will seriously harm a business’ brand in the job market. That will not only make recruiting more difficult, but can also lead to struggles retaining talent.
A social responsibility to employees
Richard Branson says, “Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
By supporting underserved areas of health, businesses are putting their employees first, which ultimately benefits their bottom lines.
Supporting menopause and other underserved areas of health is the right thing for businesses to do, but it’s more than that as well.
It takes steps towards gender equality, diversity and inclusion, and a fairer society overall. But on top of that, it bolsters businesses’ reputation and productivity, along with retaining and recruiting talent.