Menopause – the last taboo at work

In today’s modern world where employers recognise key stages in life, it seems there is one remaining natural life event that is being ignored  –  the menopause.

A new government report written by Dr Ros Altmann calls for greater support for workers going through the menopause. Dr Altmann, who is the Business Champion for Older Workers, who advises the Government on ways to keep older people in the workforce, says employers are failing older women by ignoring “the last taboo”.

The report calls for more support for women going through this significant life stage and states a lack of support is forcing some women out of their jobs. Dr Altmann says women “are being performance-managed out of their jobs” and states the menopause “is not on the work radar”.  “Pregnancy is, childbirth is, bereavement is but [menopausal women] get no support in the workplace.”

Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Natural Solutions to Menopause, said: “The news that women are being forced out of the workplace because employers are ignoring the impact of the menopause is shocking.  The menopause is just a transition in a woman’s life and, if given good advice, this transition can be comfortable and easy. Women can now live 30 to 50 years past the menopause and they want to live that with a good quality of life.

Marilyn Glenville

“If women are told how to cope and manage this stage in their lives then they can be very productive and efficient at work. They have the experience and maturity to do their jobs well and can be very valuable assets to a company.  

“The menopause should be ‘on the work radar’ because it not only helps women feel well and healthy at this time in their lives, but also helps the company retain and utilise the valuable experience of productive and efficient women.”

Here Dr Glenville answers key questions:

When does the menopause start, how long can it last and what are the symptoms?
The average age in the UK is 51 but the menopause can start as early as 40 or as late in life as 55. The menopause typically lasts for about seven years, but some women can experience symptoms for up to 14 years.
Common symptoms can include hot flushes, night sweats, irritability, declining libido, osteoporosis, weight gain, depression, lack of energy, aging skin, hair loss, vaginal dryness and mood swings.

Do you think it would be hard for women to approach their employers about symptoms and possible support, given the current climate?
I think it would be very hard and embarrassing for the women where the menopause is affecting them to talk to employers about this, especially if the employer is a man.  For many women this stage is a very clear signal that they are getting older and they would be worried about talking about the symptoms as this may imply that they are not coping with the job and are not so productive or efficient.
  I think they would be worried about losing their job or being made redundant if they spoke out.

What sorts of initiatives and support could employers introduce to make it easier for women to manage their symptoms and stay in full time employment?
I think it would be brilliant if employers could bring in someone like myself to give a “training” day for women on how to cope with the menopause.  This information day should be open to all women in the company, no matter what their age, because if they are given good advice earlier on and prepare for the menopause then they can move through this transition easily and comfortably.

 Dr Marilyn Glenville PhD is a nutritionist specialising in women’s health, and author of several best-selling books.

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