Labour announces plans to break the stigma of the menopause at work
Dawn Butler MP, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, will use a speech at Labour Party conference today (Saturday 21st September) to announce that the next Labour government will require all large employers to introduce a menopause workplace policy to break the stigma associated with the menopause, as part of the party’s plans to transform the workplace for women.
Under Labour’s plans, large employers with over 250 employees will be required to:
- Provide training for line managers to be aware of how the menopause can affect working women and understand what adjustments may be necessary to support them;
- Provide flexible working policies that cater for women experiencing the menopause;
- Ensure absence procedures are flexible to accommodate menopause as a long-term fluctuating health condition;
- Carry out risk assessments to consider the specific needs of menopausal women and ensure that their working environment will not make their symptoms worse.
Adjustments that employers could be required to make could include the provision of ventilation facilities, access to cold water and giving women flexible working hours if their sleep pattern is disturbed.
Research has shown that many women feel ill-equipped to manage the symptoms of menopause at work. Three out of five working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work, affects their confidence and makes them feel unable to disclose their symptoms when taking sick leave.
Many women even consider working part-time or leaving work altogether because of a lack of the flexible working hours or working practices they need to deal with their symptoms. A report by ITV, in conjunction with Wellbeing of Women, found that a quarter of those surveyed had considered leaving their jobs because of the menopause.
Labour’s plans to transform the workplace for women also include:
- Closing the gender pay gap by forcing large companies to conduct gender pay audits and publish action plans to tackle it – backed up by civil enforcement;
- Introducing rights to flexible working from the first day of employment;
- Tackling harassment at work by reinstating Section 40 of the Equality Act to protect employees from third party harassment.
Dawn Butler MP, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, said:
“This bold policy will support women experiencing the symptoms of menopause in the workplace. Together we must end the stigma and ensure that no woman is put at a disadvantage, from menstruation to menopause.
“This forms part of our plans for a workplace revolution under the next Labour government to secure equality at work. By delivering policies like this through a stand-alone Women and Equalities department, Labour will put equality right at the heart of government.”
Notes to editors
- Nearly a third of women surveyed (30 per cent) said they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms, but only a quarter of them felt able to tell their manager the real reason for their absence. https://www.cipd.co.uk/about/media/press/menopause-at-work
- Three out of five working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work, https://www.cipd.co.uk/about/media/press/menopause-at-work
- Research has shown that many women feel ill-equipped to manage the symptoms of menopause at work. https://southwest.unison.org.uk/content/uploads/sites/4/2018/08/The-menopause-and-work-A-UNISON-Guide.pdf
- A report by ITV, in conjunction with Wellbeing of Women, found that a quarter of those surveyed had considered leaving their jobs because of the menopause. https://www.itv.com/news/2016-11-23/quarter-of-women-going-through-menopause-considered-leaving-work/
- Employers should ensure that all line managers have been trained to be aware of how the menopause can affect work and what adjustments may be necessary to support women who are experiencing the menopause.
- Managers also need to be trained in how to spot the early warning signs of poor wellbeing, and changes in employee behaviour or performance at work that could be linked to the menopause, as well as be confident in signposting to expert sources of support such as, GP services and an employee assistance programme, if available.
- There are a wide range of flexible adjustments that an employer can make to someone’s working arrangements to help menopausal women to deal with their symptoms, such as:
- reducing workload
- ensuring they are not working excessively long hours
- capacity to rearrange formal meetings or presentations if needed
- allowing them to take breaks where needed
- allowing them to work flexible hours and/ or at home, especially on bad days or when they have slept poorly
- allowing them to take days off if required or to leave early, perhaps to resume working later in the day or evening
- allowing time off in the day to attend medical appointments
- The employer will be required to recognise that the menopause is not an illness and that absence policies will not penalise workers.
- Many employers use the Bradford Factor to evaluate sickness absence, which penalises many short-term absences by assigning a negative score to the employee .
- Absence management policies and procedures should be flexible and highlight the menopause as a potential long-term fluctuating health condition that should be treated as such, with support and understanding. If symptoms affect a woman’s capacity to work and her attendance, it’s appropriate to treat this type of non-attendance outside of the normal absence reporting procedures and triggers.
- One approach could be to have a code in the organisation’s absence recording system to note the menopause as a reason for absence distinct from other types of sickness absence.
- Employers should risk assessments should consider the specific needs of menopausal women and ensure that the working environment will not make their symptoms worse. Issues that need looking at include temperature and ventilation. The assessments should also address welfare issues such as toilet facilities and access to cold water.