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Supporting Menopausal Workers: A Guide on Employer Considerations

December 01, 2023

Employers in Ireland are increasingly recognising the value of meeting the unique needs of their workforce as discussions on workplace inclusion and Employee well-being gain momentum. The experience of menopausal Employees is one such area that demands this recognition and special consideration. Menopause is a natural stage in a woman's life, and fostering a supportive atmosphere can have a big impact on the well-being and productivity of Employees who are going through this transition.

At Adare HRM we are here to support in ensuring Organisations are aware and proactive in knowing and putting policies in place that will assist menopausal staff.
 
Menopause: The Facts
Menopause typically occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55, but the onset can vary and can be accompanied by hormonal changes that can result in a range of physical and emotional symptoms. In the general population, approximately 600,000 women are affected by menopause at any one time; some 350,000 of which are in the workplace. Up to 60% of women experiencing menopausal symptoms report that it has a negative impact on their work. Approximately 8% of participants in research studies on Menopause have felt the need to leave their employment due to the effects of menopause.
 
With these facts in mind, it is clear that there needs to be changes set in place by Employers in Ireland so that we can foster a more inclusive workplace by understanding the challenges associated with menopause and implementing supportive policies.
 
In November 2022, the Department of Health published the results of a benchmarking survey[1] on menopause in Ireland. The survey was carried out between September 30 and October 3 and included a sample of 1,250 adults. The research demonstrated strong agreement among participants that the impact of menopause is not sufficiently acknowledged or recognised, and that the workplace poses particular difficulties.

 
Employment Legislation
Whilst an Employer is not legally bound to set in place policies specifically for menopausal staff, a change in attitude through education and awareness brought by the media over recent years has highlighted this Employee well-being topic.
 
Under the Safety, Health, and Welfare at Work Act 2005, Employers have to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health, and welfare of their Employees, to avoid workplace accidents, injury, and ill health. Menopause is not considered a hazard in health and safety legislation, but the symptoms of menopause (i.e., brain fog, memory issues, fatigue, stress, anxiety, hot flashes menstrual disruption, etc.) may have implications concerning workplace comfort, performance, and safety. It would be incumbent on any Employer to conduct risk assessments to consider the specific needs and work environment of menopausal workers in particular focusing on ventilation, temperature, toilet facilities and access to cold drinking water. The primary goal should be to consider the welfare facilities that will better support menopausal workers as the legal obligations under the Act include the provision and maintenance of facilities and arrangements for the welfare of Employees at work.
 
The Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2015, legislation provides, for example, protections against discrimination in respect of age and gender-related issues. It also includes requirements to provide reasonable accommodation for any Employee who has a disability. In the equality legislation, “disability” is a broadly defined term that could, in certain circumstances, include some of the medical issues that can arise during menopause.
 
Employers must be aware of the effects menopause symptoms might have on work performance and attendance and take the appropriate steps to support Employees in this area.
 
Bearing in the general considerations an Employer should consider, here are some examples of how an improved work environment could empower menopausal staff and promote a more inclusive and empathic working-life balance.
 
Flexible Work Arrangements:
Recognising that menopause symptoms can vary from person to person, Employers could consider offering flexible work arrangements. This could include options such as flexible working hours, and remote work opportunities, which allows menopausal Employees to manage their symptoms more effectively while maintaining their professional commitments.
 
Absence Management:
Taking account of menopause in absence related policies and procedures will both assist and support Employees in the flexibility that is required.
 
Temperature Regulation in the Workplace:
Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause and can be particularly challenging in a work setting. Employers can address this by ensuring that the workplace temperature is adjustable or by providing personal fans contributing to a more comfortable work environment.
 
Education and Awareness Programs:
It is critical to foster a culture that encourages awareness and open conversation regarding menopause. Employers might create educational programs or workshops to enhance Employee understanding of menopause and its potential effects. This not only helps to de-stigmatise the subject, but it also fosters understanding and support among coworkers.
 
Reviewing and Updating Policies:
Evaluating and updating company handbooks and policies regularly to ensure they are inclusive and sensitive to menopausal Employees is advised. This could entail revising the policy regarding sick leave, accommodations, and flexible working arrangements. If Menopause is explicitly addressed in corporate policy, this, in turn, demonstrates a commitment to recognising and supporting Employees during this life phase.
 
Adare Human Resource Management recognise and support the education and awareness training need from a HR & Employment law perspective as well as the need for inclusive practices and appropriate policies to be put in place to support menopausal workers. Our Head of Employer Relations, Katie Ridge participated in the National Menopause Summit presenting Employer's Considerations in this pivotal Employee well-being topic. Our team is here to arrange support and guidance in implementing thoughtful policies, providing education, and promoting open communication, to contribute to a positive workplace culture that benefits everyone. Prioritising the well-being of menopausal Employees is not just a legal and ethical responsibility; it's an investment in the long-term success and happiness of the entire workforce.
 
To support putting new Menopausal procedures in place, updating company handbooks, upskilling Managers, and setting out a framework for a more inclusive and empathic work environment, please contact our team of experts in Adare HRM who can advise and guide you through our Retainer Partnership Programme for continuous HR Support.

 


[1] Department of Health. Understanding Menopause Highlights of Department of Health Research Carried out by B&A Oct 2022. Department of Health, Oct. 2022, www.gov.ie/en/publication/f1490-why-we need-to-talk-about-menopause.