World Menopause Day is held every year on 18 October. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of the menopause and the support options available for improving health and wellbeing.

At Cardinus, we recognize the significance of this day and aim to provide valuable insights into the nuances of menopause and the positive steps employers can take to create supportive workplaces.

Keep reading as we provide more information about menopause, its symptoms, the importance of understanding and supporting women going through it, as well as guidance for employers.

What is the menopause?

Menopause is a natural and significant phase in a woman’s life when menstruation, or periods, cease permanently. It is officially recognized when there have been no menstrual cycles for 12 consecutive months without any other identifiable biological or physiological cause. This transition can trigger a range of physical and psychological side effects, some of which may persist for several years. It typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, primarily due to the loss of ovarian follicular function and a decrease in estrogen levels. Menopause can also be induced by surgical or medical procedures.

The journey to menopause is often gradual and marked by changes in the menstrual cycle, a phase known as “perimenopause.” Perimenopause encompasses the period when these changes first become noticeable and lasts up to one year after the final menstrual period. This transition can affect an individual’s physical, emotional, mental, and social wellbeing.

Menopause symptoms

Symptoms experienced during and after menopause vary from person to person. Some individuals may experience few or no symptoms, while others may endure more severe challenges that can significantly impact daily activities and overall quality of life. Common menopause symptoms include:

  • Hot flushes and night sweats. This is sudden sensations of heat in the face, neck, and chest, accompanied by flushing, sweating, palpitations, and physical discomfort that can last for several minutes.
  • Changes in menstrual cycle. This includes irregular periods leading to the cessation of menstruation.
  • Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sexual intercourse, resulting in discomfort and reduced sexual satisfaction.
  • Sleep Disturbances (Insomnia). Many women experience difficulty sleeping during this time.
  • Mood changes. Menopause can be associated with mood swings, depression, and anxiety.

In addition to these symptoms, menopause can also influence body composition and cardiovascular risk. The advantage women typically have over men in terms of cardiovascular health diminishes with the substantial decrease in estrogen levels after menopause. Furthermore, menopause can weaken pelvic support structures, increasing the risk of pelvic organ prolapse, and it contributes to a loss of bone density, leading to higher rates of osteoporosis and fractures.

Understanding the importance of menopause

It is crucial to recognise that menopause is just one phase in a woman’s life journey. The timing of menopause is influenced by factors such as prior health, reproductive history, lifestyle choices, and environmental conditions. Both perimenopausal and postmenopausal symptoms can have a profound impact on an individual’s personal and professional life, emphasising the significance of understanding and addressing the challenges associated with this life stage.

The global population of postmenopausal women is on the rise. In 2021, women aged 50 and over accounted for 26% of all women and girls worldwide, marking a notable increase from 22% in 2011.

Menopause in the workplace

Employers have a vital role to play in supporting employees experiencing menopause. Creating a sensitive and inclusive workplace is key to helping individuals navigate this phase confidently and effectively. Here are practical steps employers can take:

  • Foster an inclusive environment: Cultivate a workplace culture where employees feel comfortable discussing how menopause affects them without fear of stigma or embarrassment.
  • Train managers: Ensure that managers understand the potential impact of menopause on individuals and the workplace. Encourage a zero-tolerance stance against any form of menopause-related discrimination or harassment.
  • Designate a menopause champion: Consider having a designated point of contact, such as a welfare officer, HR team member, or counselor from an Employee Assistance Programme, to provide support and resources.
  • Develop a Menopause Policy: Create a clear menopause policy that demonstrates the organisation’s commitment to supporting menopausal staff. Ensure that managers are familiar with this policy.
  • Make practical adjustments: Implement reasonable workplace adjustments to assist individuals dealing with menopausal symptoms, such as modifying working patterns, providing physical amenities like fans, easy access to toilets, washing facilities, and drinking water.
  • Conduct risk assessments: Identify the specific needs of individuals experiencing menopause through comprehensive risk assessments and establish suitable arrangements for reasonable adjustments.
  • Inclusivity for all: Recognise that menopause can be experienced by trans individuals. Regardless of the gender individuals present as, including non-binary individuals, they require equal support, flexibility, and dignity in the workplace, just like any other employee.

Legal considerations in the UK

In the United Kingdom, specific laws and regulations apply to workplaces concerning menopause:

  • The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 mandates that employers ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees.
  • The Workplace (Health, Safety, and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require employers to make workplaces suitable for those who work in them.
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 necessitates employers to conduct risk assessments, encompassing both the physical environment and psychosocial risks.
  • The Equality Act 2010 (EqA) does not protect menopause as a standalone characteristic. However, it offers protection under disability discrimination provisions, as some individuals with menopausal symptoms may meet the definition of disability.

Case law has demonstrated the possibility of applying the EqA to menopause regardless of its lack as a standalone protected characteristic, thanks to the disability discrimination protections it offers. Section 6 of the EqA defines disability as a physical or mental impairment with a substantial, long-term adverse effect on an individual’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities. It is increasingly recognised that some individuals with menopausal symptoms meet this definition, depending on their unique circumstances.

Creating an inclusive workplace 

Recognising and addressing menopause is not just a matter of health; it’s a matter of dignity, inclusion, and respect. At Cardinus, we believe that fostering an understanding of menopause and providing the necessary support is essential for creating harmonious and productive workplaces. By embracing these principles, employers can contribute to the well-being of their employees and create a more inclusive and equitable work environment for all.

Our DSE management program (Healthy Working) recognises that ergonomic adjustments can help those going through the menopause as well aging in general. An information sheet on menopause in the workplace is available on the Healthy Working homepage and can be accessed anonymously by employees. For more information about this feature, please get in touch.

References and further information

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