Onwards and upwards to build menopause-friendly workplaces

‘Let’s talk menopause’ has been the CIPD’s clarion call to organisations since we launched our workplace resources and Manifesto for Menopause at Work in 2019. Since then, we’ve seen real momentum build to create menopause-supportive cultures. In 2019, just 10% of organisations had a framework to support people through menopause transition: in 2023 that figure has reached 46%.  

This is great progress and means the foundations are building for a future where any employee with menopause symptoms in any workplace can receive understanding and support. The UK Government is playing its part by backing two calls that the CIPD made in 2019 – to appoint a Menopause Ambassador to work across government departments and support an employer-led campaign to raise awareness of the menopause as a workplace issue.  

We were delighted when Helen Tomlinson, Head of Talent (UK & Ireland) at the Adecco Group, was appointed as Menopause Employment Champion and in July 2023 we announced our close collaboration with Helen and the Department for Work and Pensions team to build menopause-friendly workplaces. The aim is to address the gap in workplace support that is still present in many workplaces, as new CIPD research shows. 

The gap in menopause provision needs to close completely 

The most recent CIPD UK survey of 2,185 working women aged 40-60 with menopause symptoms shows that more than one in four (27%) – an estimated 1.8 million in the labour market – think that menopause has negatively affected their career progression. This is even worse for employees with a disability/long-term health condition, or from an ethnic minority – 36% and 38% respectively.  

Behind these statistics sit real experiences of living with the aftermath of not achieving career aspirations through lack of support for a natural life event. Many stories were reported by our survey respondents, such as: 

“I have been unable to continue a career which I had developed over 25-plus years due to being unsupported with symptoms of brain fog/extreme fatigue/mood swings/stress and this has led to me having to take part time low paid work.” 

The UK economy also risks losing valuable skills and talent completely due to the gap in support that persists in some organisations. Our findings show that 17% of women with menopause symptoms have considered leaving work and 6% have already quit their job.  

Our research also shows that employees who feel unsupported by their employer, manager and colleagues are significantly more likely to report increased levels of pressure and stress.  

Workplace support can alleviate this adverse impact 

The good news is that the workplace support – from employers, managers and colleagues - makes a considerable difference to the impact their menopause symptoms have on career progression and intention to quit.   

For example, where people feel unsupported by their manager and colleagues, they are more than twice as likely to say their symptoms have had a negative impact on their career. Similarly, people are more than twice as likely to have considered quitting if they feel unsupported by their employer or manager. The impact is even more marked in the case of people leaving work, with employees around five times more likely to have left work if they don’t have support from either source. 

People need practical as well as compassionate support 

A healthy workplace culture is a core factor influencing how employees with menopause symptoms feel supported. But most also need practical support and helpful adjustments to manage the impact of their symptoms on work.  

There’s a wide range of measures that organisations can implement to help manage menopause symptoms, but our research shows that the most valued are: 

  • planned flexible working (48% of survey respondents) 
  • ability to control local temperature (46%) 
  • last-minute or unplanned late starts after sleep disturbance (36%) 
  • more breaks when needed (34%) 
  • occupational health support (34%) 
  • adjustments to work responsibilities/workload (31%). 

It’s important that support is tailored to the individual because symptoms fluctuate and are experienced by people very differently. Small changes can often make a big difference, but the best approach is to have a sensitive and supportive conversation to find out what would be most helpful. Therefore, it’s essential that employers educate line managers about menopause transition. They need to be comfortable and confident to talk about it and know what policies and support are available.  

The risks to business of not acting on the menopause include higher sickness absence, lower engagement and performance, increased staff turnover and reduced productivity. This is a risk most organisations can’t afford to take, particularly at a time of acute skills shortages in many UK sectors. 

Watch the CIPD October webinar on Creating menopause supportive workplaces, featuring the UK Government’s menopause ambassador, Helen Tomlinson. 

You can access all the CIPD menopause resources, including the report findings of the latest survey. 

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