Around 80% of menopausal women will experience symptoms including hot flushes, sleeping problems, mood changes and joint stiffness. These symptoms can have a drastic impact on day-to-day life and last around four years on average.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) helps around one million women across the UK deal with these menopausal symptoms. With the UK currently experiencing a shortage, women are struggling to get the medication they need, putting them in uncertain, challenging waters.
Bertrand Stern-Gillet is CEO at Health Assured, the UK's leading EAP provider, he says: "The menopause puts women through a real emotional, physical, and mental struggle. Not getting effective treatment could be life-threatening in some cases. And while the supply chain operations may be out of most people's hands, there are changes employers can make to support affected employees during this time. If you're an employer, it's your responsibility to step in and guide these changes at work.
"Because we spend so much of our time in the workplace, employers have a vital role in the supporting process. Symptoms of the menopause can interfere with regular workplace duties, making work-life a struggle. Employers must recognise these challenges and do their best to provide support when it's needed.
"As CEO, I'm proud to have signed the Menopause Workplace Pledge. Health Assured recognises the importance of menopause awareness and support in the workplace, and we are committed to supporting our employees through this stage of their career. We want to help other organisations provide this support too. Here are my top tips for supporting your employees during this difficult time."
Check in with your teams
Menopause symptoms are often misunderstood, meaning your employees might be suffering in silence. But you'll never know if you don't approach the conversation. Considering the recent news surrounding HRT shortages, it's now even more important to regularly check in on your employees' wellbeing. Try to educate yourself about how the menopause affects women and listen non-judgementally in your check-ins. Do not ask someone directly or assume that they are menopausal - this could cause great offence and open you up to age or sex discrimination claims. Instead, listen to your employees concerns, recognise that some symptoms could be linked to the menopause and do what you can to help.
Talk openly about the menopause
Starting the conversation around employee wellbeing at the workplace involves educating and communicating about health issues such as the menopause. It could be helpful to run workshops to raise awareness and advise staff where they can turn to access more information or support. You might also wish to highlight the support options available to employees via the Intranet, email, or posters. Having a menopause policy in place can also help.
Introduce menopause champions
Train up employees or managers as experts in wellbeing. Courses like Mental Health First Aid and workshops on the menopause can provide the tools for these individuals to support others. When there's a dedicated person to turn to, it might encourage more employees to open up about their struggles. It also highlights to employees your attitudes towards wellbeing.
Make reasonable adjustments
When employees have a long-term condition that affects their mental and physical health, they can ask for reasonable adjustments to their roles. These could include flexible working hours, reducing workload or additional equipment. It might only be a small change to you, but these changes can make all the difference to your employees.
Consider an EAP
The menopause is an extremely difficult time for any employee to go through, especially right now. Someone who had previously been able to manage their symptoms using HRT may be struggling again if they're unable to get hold of the medication. An Employee Assistance Programme provides your employees with 24/7, 365 emotional support via a confidential counselling helpline.