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Menopause reasonable adjustments – a six-step guide

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Published: 11 Mar 2024

Making workplace changes to support women experiencing menopause symptoms will also ensure you stay on the right side of the law.

Employers must make reasonable adjustments for women affected by symptoms of menopause in the workplace or risk legal action, under new guidance issued by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in February.

The EHRC issued the guidance to clarify the legal obligations to workers going through the menopause. Failing to make reasonable adjustments amounts to disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 if the symptoms have a “long-term and substantial impact” on a woman’s ability to carry out usual day-to-day activities, the EHRC warns.

A video explaining the guidance warns that the costs of failing to make workplace adjustments for staff can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds when taking into account the loss of talent and costs of defending a claim.

Two-thirds of women between the ages of 40 and 60 experiencing menopausal symptoms say they have had a mostly negative impact on them at work, according to research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Of those who were negatively affected at work, almost eight out of 10 said they were less able to concentrate, 68% said they experienced more stress and 43% felt less physically able to carry out work tasks.

Meanwhile, the Menopause and the Workplace study by the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, found that one in 10 women who worked during their menopause were forced to leave their job due to the symptoms, which can include hot flushes, brain fog and difficulty sleeping. 

Suzie Dawes, Head of People and Culture at caba, the occupational charity supporting ICAEW accountants, says:“Women facing menopause can suffer from many symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, problems with memory and concentration, mood changes, joint stiffness and even heart palpitations.” 

Here are caba’s suggestions for how employers can ensure that their colleagues will be supported.

1) Develop workplace understanding

Consider providing training to managers so that they can effectively help your employees. Make efforts to develop policies that ensure a universal knowledge of the symptoms that menopause often creates and how they can impact employees in the workplace. Also, try to ensure that all of your employees are aware of the health and well-being policies within the company. This will be a reassurance to them and a guide for creating a pleasant and comfortable working environment. 

2) Factor in regular breaks

Allow frequent breaks for women who may be suffering from symptoms without bringing them to the attention of the rest of the workforce. Again, try to be as subtle as possible. For example, women impacted by symptoms such as hot flushes or joint pain will appreciate the ability to take a short walk or step outside for some fresh air during work or following particularly long meetings. 

3) Normalise well-being conversations

During conversations between employees and their line or HR managers, encourage discussions about their health or well-being. Doing this will create a natural and comfortable line of dialogue where colleagues will likely feel more relaxed to talk freely. However, bear in mind that some women may feel uncomfortable discussing these issues with men; therefore, having a female figure available for such talks can help improve the line of conversation. 

4) Consider offering flexible working hours

Lack of or interrupted sleep may mean your employees aren’t running on full power. If your employees suffer from disturbed sleep, why not offer flexible working hours or shift changes to ensure you get the best out of them? 

5) Offer menopause-friendly uniforms

If your workplace requires a uniform, allow for additional layers or remove one if possible. As changing temperature tends to be a real issue for menopausal women, giving them the option to reduce their body heat will work towards helping to alleviate the issue and make them feel more comfortable. 

6) Make adjustments that benefit everyone

Encouraging a healthy working environment, including organised lunchtime walking clubs, having readily available chilled water and perhaps even desk fans, will benefit the workforce. It will also go far in helping to lessen the worst side effects of not just the symptoms of menopause, but also the medication that your staff may be taking to manage it.

caba

Caba have been proudly supporting the accountant community worldwide for over 130 years. All of caba's services are free, impartial and strictly confidential.

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