Understanding menopause risks in the workplace
Menopause is not a minority issue. In fact, ‘menopausal women are the fastest growing workforce demographic’ according to the Office of National Statistics.
Unfortunately, there is a general lack of knowledge about menopause and perimenopause. Symptoms are easy to miss or misunderstand, but there is no doubt that they often have a detrimental effect on women’s performance at work.
How are women affected?
Common symptoms include low mood, anxiety, mood swings, low self-esteem, poor memory, brain fog, hot flushes, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, tiredness, heart palpitations, headaches, migraines, muscle aches, joint pains, weight gain and dry and itchy skin.
These symptoms can lead women to lose confidence in their abilities and need to take more sick leave. It is not unusual for the resultant stress to cause women to leave their jobs altogether.
How can you fulfil your health and safety duties?
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 requires employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all their employees. Risk assessments should include any specific risks to menopausal women.
What steps should you take?
It is important that your management team and workers are aware of menopause and its effect at work. You could run training sessions or awareness campaigns. It is good practice to ensure that menopause is included within your human resources policies.
This openness will make employees feel more comfortable talking with their managers, and in turn managers will feel confident to have supportive conversations with employees.
Conduct a risk assessment
Identify the hazards. Consider how a menopausal employee’s job role and responsibilities could make their symptoms harder to deal with. What are the hazards within the job that may put your workers at risk? Do they work long shifts? Do they work in high temperatures? Do they have restricted toilet breaks? Do they have a uniform that may cause discomfort? Is their job inflexible with working hours or times?
Identify who is at risk. The more open the policy the easier it should be for employees to make you aware of their menopause. Ensure that their individual needs are considered and that information is kept confidential. Privacy should be respected and assessments only made with consent.
Introduce control measures. Reasonable adjustments and support should be considered. For example, adjust temperatures and ventilation, change uniforms if the usual one is hot and uncomfortable, provide a suitable rest space, make toilet facilities easily accessible, make cold drinking water easily available, alter working hours, train managers on health and safety issues relating to menopause.
You should document the risk assessment and review it regularly.