Guidance - The Menopause and Work
Support from the University
The University is committed to supporting staff who are going through the menopause. This includes women and some trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people. We recognise that for some staff the symptoms of the menopause will affect their comfort and performance at work. We want to have an open and understanding workplace where staff can speak to their managers if they are experiencing any problems while at work and we will aim to provide support and adjustments to help anyone who is going through the menopause.
About the menopause
The menopause is a natural process when an individual stops having periods. It usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, although some may experience the menopause much earlier. Symptoms can last for several years and so will affect some for a considerable portion of their working lives. Symptoms will affect individuals differently and for some they will have a significant impact on their day to day activities. Around half of individuals going through the menopause find it difficult to cope being at work (cipd.co.uk/menopause).
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms commonly include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats and disturbed sleep
- Low mood, anxiety, depression
- Difficulty sleeping
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Joint stiffness, aches and pains
- Heavy periods, anaemia
The University recognises that experiencing any of these symptoms is a challenge for individuals trying to carry on with their normal day to day work activities.
The guidance below is designed to assist managers and staff who are experiencing symptoms of the menopause.
Guidance for Managers
We want to encourage staff to let their managers know if they are suffering from any menopause symptoms that are affecting their performance or comfort at work.
You must offer support to any member of staff who advises you that they are dealing with menopause symptoms and consider any adjustments that might help them. Be aware that if symptoms are substantial, long lasting and affect day to day activities your staff member may be considered to have a disability under Section 15 of the Equality Act.
What can you do?
Recognise that your member of staff might feel awkward about telling you they are experiencing menopause symptoms.
Encourage your staff to talk to you by letting your team know that they can approach you in confidence about any health related matter. Also let them know that you can arrange for them to speak to another manager if they feel uncomfortable speaking directly to you about any health or wellbeing problems. Treat all conversations sensitively.
Identify an alternative person for your member of staff to talk to if they wish. This might be an HR Advisor or another manager that is familiar with your working environment.
If a member of staff (or the person they have spoken to) lets you know about their symptoms discuss what adjustments might help. These could include having a portable fan, sitting near a window or away from a radiator, making sure there is access to cold drinking water or a changing room, amending some duties if they are affected by concentration, taking extra breaks.
If you need some advice or guidance about supporting staff with symptoms you can speak to your HR Advisor or an Occupational Health Advisor. If symptoms are severe or adjustments don’t seem to be helping suggest to your member of staff that you could organise a referral to Occupational Health for further recommendations.
If a member of staff is suffering from fatigue or sleep deprivation find out if a temporary flexible working arrangement might help. This could involve having a later start time in the morning or occasional home working. You could offer a trial of a new working arrangement to see if it offers any benefits.
If a member of your staff is required to wear a uniform find out if the clothing is exacerbating symptoms. It might be possible to make adjustments to the uniform or agree that alternative clothing can be worn.
Be aware that a member of staff going through the menopause may have a higher absence level than previously or than colleagues. This could be due to physical symptoms such as heavy bleeding or sleep deprivation. Be supportive in allowing staff to attend medical appointments if necessary.
Recognise that a dip in performance might be due to menopause symptoms. If you are discussing any performance issues make sure you ask if the member of staff is experiencing any health related difficulties that are affecting performance and be open to how you can help.
Have regular conversations with your member of staff to see if the adjustments you’ve introduced are helping or if they need any additional support.
Do not make assumptions about symptoms or their impact based on anecdotes or the experiences of other people you may know who have been through the menopause. Everyone is different and will be affected in a variety of ways.
Guidance for Staff
If you are dealing with symptoms of the menopause which are affecting your performance or comfort at work make sure you speak to your manager to explain your difficulties and find out what help or support can be arranged for you. The University is committed to supporting staff dealing with the menopause and any conversations you have will be treated sensitively and constructively, with the aim of helping you to work as comfortably and productively as possible.
What can you do?
Visit your GP if you need help or advice to deal with some of your symptoms.
Access the links below for advice and guidance about coping with symptoms.
If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your line manager speak to someone else who can offer support. This might be your HR Advisor or another manager in your area of work. Your conversation will be treated sensitively and confidentially.
If you feel comfortable, talk to your colleagues about your symptoms and any adjustments so that they will have an understanding of what you are going through and what might help. It will help to have supportive colleagues around you.
Identify any adjustments that might help you in the workplace e.g. having a desk fan, being closer to ventilation, having somewhere to change clothing during the day. Talk to your manager (or other contact) about what you think might help you to be more comfortable at work.
Try and avoid hot flush triggers such as hot drinks or snacks especially if you in a meeting or at an event.
If your symptoms are severe or initial adjustments don’t seem to be helping you can obtain advice from the Occupational Health Service. Your manager can make a referral for you or you may self-refer. You will be able to explain the difficulties you are experiencing to an Occupational Health Advisor and discuss any further adjustments that may be beneficial to you. To find out more about Occupational Health visit their webpage.
If your symptoms are affecting your attendance or performance at work think about applying for a flexible working arrangement. A change to your working pattern can be for a temporary period and need not be a permanent arrangement. You can find out more in the flexible working policy. You can request changes to your start and finish times or a reduction in hours.
If you wear a uniform which is contributing to your discomfort speak to your manager to see if any adjustments can be made or if you can wear alternative clothing.
- Henpecked https://henpicked.net/menopause-hub/
- Rock my menopause https://rockmymenopause.com/
- TV programmes https://www.channel4.com/programmes/davina-mccall-sex-mind-and-the-menopause
- Laughology https://www.laughology.co.uk/business-workshops/menopause-awareness
- Menopause Warriors https://www.facebook.com/groups/344006672898248/
- Let's Talk Menopause https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/menopause
- Menopause cafe https://www.menopausecafe.net