The Menopause Exchange Blog

WORKPLACE MENOPAUSE POLICIES AND GUIDANCE

I ’ve been presenting talks and workshops in the workplace for 21 years, and more recently webinars. An important focus of interest over the last two years has been the preparation of a menopause policy or guidance for employees and employers.

This article was included in issue 86 (autumn 2020) of The Menopause Exchange newsletter.

I’ve been approached by various companies and organisations to comment on documents they’ve prepared. At the moment, the situation is different from usual, with many employees working from home. But the aim is to tailor your policy or guidance to your workplace.

General menopause information
It’s important to include definitions and general information on the perimenopause, menopause and premature menopause (premature ovarian insufficiency). This should be tailored towards employees, partners, managers, colleagues, diversity and inclusion professionals, health & safety officers and anyone else responsible for the health & safety of employees.

Sometimes the menopause policy is included in existing policies. There may be two separate parts: one for menopausal employees and their partners, and one for managers and colleagues.

Symptoms affecting work
Although there is a long list of possible menopausal symptoms, not all of these may affect work so it’s important to emphasise those that do. These symptoms are hot flushes, night sweats leading to insomnia, fatigue, headaches, joint aches and pains, palpitations, mood changes, brain fog, anxiety, memory loss, poor concentration, irritability, depression, frequent urination, period changes and heavy periods.

The workplace can affect physical and emotional health and make menopausal symptoms worse, so working conditions may need to be reviewed and changed. Every woman is different, but any adjustments should enable each woman to work to her full potential.

There’s a minimum room temperature for workplaces. Too high a temperature can worsen or increase the frequency of hot flushes. Staff may not all work in the same building, and buildings will differ in temperature control (e.g. valves on radiators, heating and ventilation, and air conditioning systems, if present). Open offices can lead to greater problems than individual offices, because some employees may feel the cold more than others and they may complain if the temperature is too low.

  • Is there easy access to drinking water?
  • Is there a rest area, or quiet area, for short breaks or a break to get fresh air?
  • Is there a choice of where to sit (e.g. away from heat or near an opening window or one that has blinds)?
  • Can employees use fans?
  • Are uniform fabrics thermally suitable?
  • Can employees obtain extra uniforms, and are they able to remove a jacket?

Night sweats can cause insomnia, and the policy should refer to the impact of fatigue the following day. This can cause difficulty in making decisions, a loss of confidence and the inability to cope. Mention if there’s a flexible working policy (e.g. changing work hours by having a later start time and an early finishing time, the possibility of shift work and rotas).

Frequent urination and heavy periods mean assessing the number and position of toilets. Can menopausal women sit near them and do they have ready access to washroom and changing facilities?

What’s already available?

  • Are there risk assessments and sickness absence procedures for menopause-related sickness absences?
  • Is there an occupational health department or an external occupational health provider to give advice?
  • Is there an employee assistance programme (EAP)? If so what does it provide? Counsellors for emotional symptoms, specialists who can advise on stress, work/life balance and lifestyle support, cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness?
  • Is there a staff health and wellbeing team, a menopause working group or a menopause champion or ambassador? If so, how do employees access these?

For menopausal employees
Include well-researched, impartial information from reputable sources on the menopause. These should give practical advice and self-help tips for in and out of work, such as exercise, nutrition, sleep and the effect of alcohol and smoking. Also include treatment options, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), non-hormonal prescribed treatments, nutrition and complementary therapies and medicines.

Give advice on how they can arrange a conversation with a line manager, another manager they feel comfortable with or human resources. Provide presentations on the menopause, and give details of menopause clinics in the area.

For managers
Managers should be familiar with the workplace menopause guidance/policy, legal issues relating to the menopause (to reduce the risk of claims) and who they should work closely with (e.g. occupational health or human resources, menopause working groups etc.).

They should have access to impartial information on the menopause, with comprehensive training sessions and educational events to raise awareness and provide support. They should be confident about having conversations about the menopause sensitively, and give support, bearing in mind that employees may not disclose menopause-related health problems to managers or the reason for absence. Role play between managers and human resources or occupational health staff may make these conversations easier.

During conversations, managers should suggest support, agree actions and record adjustments, and then have follow-up discussions. If employees have difficulty managing their symptoms, give them advice on which are the most appropriate departments for referral.

About the author
Norma Goldman (B.Pharm MRPharmsS. MSc.) has a pharmacy degree and an MSc degree in health promotion. She is the founder and director of The Menopause Exchange and is a qualified health promotion specialist. She is presenting webinars on the menopause to employees in the workplace including managers and others responsible for the wellbeing of employees, to organisations, companies and groups of women. Norma’s in depth knowledge has helped many 1000s of women enjoy a more comfortable menopause. The webinars are suitable for women at or approaching the menopause, those who’ve had a premature menopause or those interested in midlife and post-menopausal health. The information includes general information on the menopause and menopausal symptoms, and coping with the menopause using self-help lifestyle tips, HRT, prescribed medicine alternatives to HRT, complementary therapies and medicines and nutrition. The information given is impartial and practical. For more information and testimonials of previous presentations email Norma at norma@menopause-exchange.co.uk or call 020 8420 7245.

Created Autumn 2020 

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