World Menopause Day

This week we marked World Menopause Day (WMD) – an annual event which seeks to raise awareness, break the stigma and highlight the support available (and still required) for improving the health and wellbeing of those experiencing menopause.

 Some women only experience mild menopause symptoms. For others, it can have a serious impact on their home, social and working lives.

 Recent research from the Chartered Institute of Professional Development shows that 60% of those who experience the menopause say it has a negative impact on their work, while a further study shows that one in ten women have left the workforce because of menopausal symptoms. That’s 10% of our country’s talented women. Despite this glaring issue, the topic has tragically often been misunderstood and unaddressed in the workplace.

 As an employer of over 1,900 across London and the south of England – of which 57% are women – we pride ourselves on being alive to the impact that the menopause, and wider menstrual health issues, can have on the working lives of those who experience them.

 Employing and retaining the best people will deliver lasting benefits for our customers and communities. To achieve this, we’re developing a progressive and inclusive people service and employment offer. This is underpinned by restorative principles of fair process, employee voice and accountability.

 For this reason, we’ve invested in initiatives designed to foster a workplace culture in which colleagues feel more at ease with the topic – and since holding our first focus group meeting in 2018, our menopause support network has blossomed into something we’re truly proud of.  

Our journey

A key first step towards tackling the issue was breaking down the stigma surrounding the topic. It’s all well and good implementing practical support policies, but the impact of any policy will be limited if employees don’t feel comfortable discussing the matter.

One of the first initiatives that we developed to tackle this was our ‘Hot Topic’ group. Starting out as an informal group where employees could discuss their experiences, the initiative has developed into a 60-strong team of colleagues who share tips and enjoy online support. We also have a monthly menopause chat slot called ‘The Sofa Sessions’ which usually has a guest speaker and time for Q&A on a range of topics.

We feel it’s important that support isn’t limited to those experiencing the menopause themselves. Following feedback from male colleagues, we developed an informative session named ‘Pause for Men’ designed to help attendees better understand the menopause and how it could be impacting those around them, be that in the workplace or at home. 

The benefits of this approach are plain to see. Indeed, just a short time after introducing the programme, a sample poll of colleagues shows that the proportion of participants who feel uneasy discussing the menopause with colleagues dropped from 43% to just 4%. Our efforts led to us becoming one of the first companies in the UK to be accredited as a ‘Menopause Friendly Employer’. We’ve also since become signatories on the ‘Menopause Workplace Pledge’, formed by women’s health charity, Wellbeing of Women.

Spreading the word

Recent years have seen the issue become much more prominent in public consciousness, with companies in all sectors taking the initiative to provide support for those who need it. Last year saw the UK government release a policy paper highlighting ten recommendations for employers looking to support those experiencing the menopause in the workplace, indicating that the changes made are here to stay.

We’re proud of the role that we have played in allowing our people to feel safe and empowered to speak out about the issues affecting them. However, we recognise that our collective journey and understanding has only just begun.

Peri-menopausal women form the fastest growing demographic in the UK workforce, meaning that for employers, the issue is likely to become more pronounced in the years ahead as the number of their employees in this age bracket increases.  A failure to suitably address this could lead to another drain of experienced talent when we need it most.

Similarly, although the taboo around the topic has undoubtedly been broken down, there is still work to be done to spread awareness of the range of impacts the menopause can have, with more being discovered about the process every year.

For example, the theme for this year’s World Menopause Day is cardiovascular disease, with researchers having recently discovered that a woman’s reproductive experiences (including menstruation, pregnancy, any breast cancer treatments and menopause) can affect the chances of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. It’s a reminder just how important it is to keep championing this issue.

However, although initiatives such as World Menopause Day are brilliant at drawing attention to the cause, true progress will require ensuring our efforts to support our colleagues are at the front of our mind all year round. With this in mind, we’re continually striving for improvements so we can hold onto this wave of talent that bring so much to the table in terms of both experience and awareness too.

For more information on this year’s World Menopause Day, and the work that is being done across sectors to raise awareness, visit the NHS Employers website.

 Lyndsay Nickerson, Transformation Director - People & Communications

 

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