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Menopausal women, of whom 4.3 million are currently in paid employment, are woefully under-supported at work, a conference heard last week. Currently 47% of the workforce, with numbers growing as employers target women returning to work as part of their post-Brexit recruitment policy, the demographic of menopausal working women is set to rise significantly.

Speaking at the inaugural BFI Supporting Menopause in the Workplace Conference, Haitham Hamoda, Chair of the British Menopause Society reported that, with menopausal symptoms typically lasting seven years or longer, it can mean a third of an average woman’s working life may be menopausal. If employers do not address the issue of workplace cultures, inclusion, policies and training on menopause, many women may choose to leave work; there have already been successful tribunal awards made to women who have been discriminated against because of the menopause.

A significant number of the blue-chip employers represented at the conference stated they had little or no workplace menopause guidance or policy, and that male line managers did not feel comfortable opening conversations with menopausal colleagues. Olivia Campbell, clinical manager at Health Management Ltd, addressing the conference, said “Menopause is not an illness. Male colleagues have an important role to play in supporting colleagues going through this life stage, and breaking these taboos, having those conversations, will give them the tools to understand what menopausal women are going through, both at work and at home.”

There are many practical adjustments that can be made in the workplace to ensure safety and comfort for menopausal women, from adjusting uniform requirements to accommodate fluctuating body temperatures, maximising toilet breaks, and offering flexi-working to help with sleep issues and energy drops. Technology can be harnessed to help manage the brain-fog and forgetfulness that can prove debilitating and chip away at women’s confidence in their ability to function at work. Smart employers will also offer women the chance to expand their medical knowledge about HRT, set up informal chat groups and provide high-profile menopause champions

Elizabeth Smith, Head of Research & Programming at BFI said, “Menopause costs UK business 14 million working days a year. This key event, part of our wider wellness in the workplace series, shows that employers can reduce that number, as well as become very attractive to this growing workforce demographic, by having those conversations openly and honestly.”

A second conference on the subject is scheduled for 19th March in London.

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