Today’s Solutions: April 17, 2024

Addressing menopause in the workplace is long overdue in today’s fast-changing work scene, where many are extending their careers into their 60s. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 41 million women over the age of 40 are in the labor force, accounting for 26 percent of the workforce and 55 percent of working women. However, this critical population is frequently sidelined and ignored. Many women find it difficult to feel comfortable at work during this time of life due to lingering stigma and the physical challenges of menopause.

Fortunately, change is on the way. Across the pond, the Women and Equalities Committee of the United Kingdom issued a report in 2022, advocating proactive changes that companies might take to better accommodate menopausal individuals. Furthermore, London Mayor Sadiq Khan called menopause “one of the last taboos of occupational health” and announced plans to implement menopause leave for city hall employees in March 2022. In Canada, insurance company Sun Life has worked with MFC to create resources for companies to improve job conditions for menopausal workers, with a report due out later this year. MFC President and Co-Founder Janet Ko stated, “We believe that the workplace can be a great opportunity to have this dialogue.”

Here are five practical suggestions that may help create a more helpful and accommodating workplace for menopausal workers:

A menopause policy: taking menopause seriously

Henpicked, a menopausal-inclusive group that has accredited 56 British employers, recommends adopting an accessible menopause policy. This policy should give guidelines on how to support menopausal coworkers as well as directions on how to obtain accommodations. Deborah Garlick, the organization’s founder, adds, “It makes clear that the organization takes menopause seriously.” For example, London South Bank University’s (LSBU) policy provides information on how to help menopausal teammates, how to request accommodations, and how to communicate menopausal symptoms with supervisors.

Cooling strategies for hot flashes

Hot flashes are experienced by around three-quarters of menopausal women, making it critical for employers to assist employees in remaining comfortable. Allowing employees to use tiny fans at their desks is recommended by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). Garlick recommends placing workstations near ventilation sources and giving cold drinking water. Employees at LSBU who are experiencing frequent heat flashes can also request temporary leave from high-visibility tasks such as presentations.

Supporting the health of employees

The United Kingdom government named its first Menopause Employment Champion this April, a volunteer position committed to pushing firms to enact inclusive menopause policies. Menopause champions, according to Garlick, can be invaluable resources for employees, connecting them to menopause-related health insurance benefits and chairing menopause support groups. In the words of Garlick: “For so many people, it’s just knowing you have somebody to talk to if you’re having a bit of a day.”

Inclusive benefits plans

Treatments such as menopause hormone therapy, pelvic-floor physiotherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy can be life-changing for menopausal women. MFC’s Ko suggests that employers examine their benefit plans to ensure that they cover a wide range of therapies or provide health-care expenditure accounts.

Flexible working hours

According to the 2022 UK Parliamentary Committee report, approximately one-third of survey respondents lost work owing to menopausal symptoms. CCOHS suggests creating flexible working hours and conditions for employees to address this issue. Companies should also consider menopause when developing a sick leave policy.

As the working environment evolves, developing inclusive workplaces that recognize the realities of menopause is no longer a choice—it’s a requirement. Organizations can build a more egalitarian and compassionate work environment by taking proactive steps to support menopausal employees, ensuring that women in this time of life are acknowledged and empowered rather than disregarded or ostracized.

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