4 surprising facts we learned about menopause last week

And how workplaces can support this fast-growing demographic.

Written by High Life North
Published 03.05.2023

Menopausal women are the fastest-growing workforce demographic.

But surely women have always gone through menopause, right? So why are businesses only just starting to look at how they can support their female employees during this time in their life?

Well, it’s actually a generational issue. Many women in previous generations would stop working after getting married or having children, so this is the first generation where a high volume of women are working into their 60s – and as a result, having to deal with the often life-changing symptoms of menopause whilst trying to perform at work.

On Thursday, Laura and Becky attended the Menopause in the Workplace event hosted by Samuel Phillips Law (SPL) with guest speaker Miss Menopause and Employment Partner at SPL, Robert Gibson.

The aim? To help businesses recognise the importance of introducing menopause policies and guidance, raising awareness of menopause and putting the right support in place.

And given that we’re women with what we consider a decent understanding of menopause, we learned a few surprising facts…

1. Once you go into menopause, you never come out of it – but you don’t have to live with the symptoms

We didn’t know that menopause never ends.

Perimenopause (the time before menopause when your ovaries gradually stop working) can last for weeks, months or years. Perimenopause is ultimately when you notice a change in your period; some women will bleed less, their periods might become infrequent and some will bleed more.

In Miss Menopause’s opinion, menopause effectively only lasts for one day – it’s the day that you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive calendar months.

The day after that you are classed as postmenopausal – and all this actually means is that you no longer have periods – but unfortunately all of your symptoms can continue for years.

2. You don’t have to rely solely on your GP to find relief from symptoms – menopause is different for everyone

One thing that really came through is that it’s all about managing the symptoms that are unique to you. Even identical twins can experience menopause in very different ways.

Miss Menopause’s first tip would be to ask who in your GP practice has a specialism in menopause. And if nobody does, you might even consider changing your practice or ask your GP for a referral to menopause clinics – there’s one in Newcastle which is on the NHS.

She also suggested that women do their own research before going to their GP, because many GPs will tell women that they’re too young for menopause or won’t even mention menopause.

You can listen to podcasts, read books and join women’s groups.  She has a Facebook group with 5,000 women, where they discuss ways to help manage symptoms – but remember, everyone is different and different things work for every individual.

Check out this feature where Miss Menopause answered our reader questions for more guidance on treatment options available. 

3. 20% of women will not experience any menopausal symptoms at all

Every single woman will go through menopause (the period in a woman’s life when menstruation ceases). We all dread it, but a lucky 20% of women will have little to no symptoms.

Sadly, that leaves 80% of us who will. Symptoms can include hot sweats, sleepless nights, mood swings, brain fog and anxiety – and that’s just scratching the surface. Miss Menopause openly talks about the fact that her symptoms ‘nearly killed her’.

Since we stay postmenopausal forever, the symptoms may never end so instead we have to ask ourselves – ‘is the menopause impacting the quality of my life?’ If so, then doing nothing shouldn’t be an option.

Women in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s are still suffering from symptoms – but they don’t have to.

4. In 2021, Employment Tribunal claims citing menopause increased by 44%. And as a manager – you could be independently sued if you handle the situation wrong.

Menopause itself is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and the Government has made it clear that it does not intend to make it one in the foreseeable future.

However House of Commons commissioned a survey of 2,000 women and discovered that in the workplace:

  • 78% said they suffered from memory loss and struggled to concentrate.
  • 69% suffered from anxiety and depression.
  • 10% of women actually had to leave their job

all as a result of menopausal symptoms…

Tips from Robert for employers

  • Symptoms are many and varied – whether it’s a disability or not, grant the reasonable request to support menopausal women who are struggling.
  • Train your managers – particularly those handling sensitive conversations. Train them to know when to act and how. Educate them on the fact that they could in fact be personally liable if they handle the situation incorrectly.
  • Resolve informally where you can – drop everything to take time off-site and have an open conversation.

Should employers have a menopause policy?

Menopause policies can be helpful to allow staff to feel supported. It helps people in the business to understand the condition and outlines the steps that can be taken.

Think about support and adjustments in the work environment

  • Time off for work appointments
  • Reduced hours
  • Flexible working
  • Additional uniforms
  • Ventilation and personal fans or desks next to windows
  • Private areas
  • Extra rest breaks

Samuel Phillips Law offers a Biz-Care service to help advise employers on a range of employment law and HR-related matters. Find out more here.

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