According to the Office for National Statistics there are currently more that 4.3 million women over the age of 50 in work, with 47% of the overall workforce taken up by women. In fact, women over 50 are the fastest growing workplace demographic.
In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51, with menopause being classed as the date 12 consecutive months from a woman’s last menstrual period. T expected age range for a woman to reach menopause is between 45 and 55, however it can occur much younger for some women.
Many women are either choosing to work longer, into their 60s and sometime beyond, or feel they have to work longer for financial reasons. Whatever the reason, it is clear that the workplace is changing with more and more women working through their menopause transition.
Worryingly it is estimated that approximately 25% of women have considered leaving their job or finding alternative, part time work, because they didn’t feel they were being supported by their employer or did not feel they could disclose menopause as the reason for their problems.
The Potential Costs to Business
A report by Oxford Economics featured on the ACAS website suggested that the average cost to replace a lost employee in the UK (as at 2014) was £30k. This cost doesn’t account for the loss of experience, skill, knowledge and intellectual capital that may be walking out of the door when a woman struggling to deal with her menopause decides she’s had enough.
It is extremely difficult to quantify exactly how much of a financial impact menopausal symptoms have on businesses as many women choose not to disclose menopause as the reason for their issues. But it would be safe to conclude that a number of sickness days taken will be related to menopause symptoms and that those women who choose not to take time off work sick, may well be less productive in their job, creating issues related to presenteeism.
Potential Legal Costs
Whilst menopause is not explicitly cited as a protected characteristic in law, it could certainly fall into one of 3 recognised protected areas including age, sex and disability.
Indeed case law exists where an organisation has been found guilty of discriminating on the grounds of sex discrimination (as in the case of Merchant vs BT 2012) and more recently disability discrimination (Davies vs SCTS 2018).
Notwithstanding any compensatory awards ordered by an employment tribunal, it is estimated that the average cost of being taken to tribunal is around £8k, win or lose.
Whilst these are hard, monetary costs, the soft costs to the business cannot be underestimated.
The psychological pressures placed on all parties concerned in the process of going through an employment tribunal are high, with stress, anxiety and other mental health issues increasing.
FACT – Women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing segment of the workforce
FACT – There are around 4.3 million women over 50 in work in the UK
FACT – Around half of all menopausal women in the workplace (aged 45-55) find it difficult to cope with work during the menopause
FACT – 70-80% of women of menopausal age are in work
FACT – replacing a talented employee can cost in excess of £30
There is also the cost of lost productivity as employees are diverted away from the primary task in order to prepare documentation, attend meetings and court appearances.
The reputational cost to the organisation could also be high, especially if the case draws unwanted media attention.
How Can Organisations Avoid These Costs?
The Government’s Report, The Effects of Menopause Transition on Women’s Economic Participation of in the UK suggests there are 4 areas that organisations should look at if they want to support their female workforce to remain productive. These are: Culture, Training, Specialist Provision and Policy.
Studies have shown that where the organisational culture is open, inclusive, accepting and empathetic women are more likely to open up about their menopause issues. This in turn w enables help and support to be provided as necessary.
Conversely where women felt they would be judged, treated differently or discriminated against, they were more likely to remain quiet about their issues or leave their job.
Managers need to be vigilant to both conscious and unconscious bias and have the moral courage to challenge inappropriate behaviour, including unwanted comments, unfair treatment, bullying etc promptly and decisively.
Training for managers as part of diversity and inclusion training that specifically includes the menopause can help to develop the kind of culture described above.
Surveys suggest that what women want from their manager as they transition through menopause is someone who will listen without judgement and who has a good awareness of the symptoms of menopause and their potential impact on performance.
Training for colleagues helps to raise awareness so that everyone understands the potential impact faced by some women as they go through their menopause transition. It can help to normalise the conversation around menopause, break down barriers and address any misconceptions.
Training for everyone can help address the unconscious bias issues mentioned earlier.
Training should include what menopause is, the symptoms and their impact. It should also include how managers can help through both emotional and practical support including understanding what might constitute reasonable workplace adjustment.
Managers should be given help and guidance on signposting as well as details of resources to help them manage effectively.
Women should be given confidential access to Occupational Health services without the need to go through their manager for a referral. Employee Assistance Programmes and Counselling Services should include menopause provision and again be accessible directly without the need for referral.
Menopause Champions embedded within the organisations can offer women an alternative avenue to seek help and support if they do not wish to speak directly to their manager.
Organisations may also wish to bring in other health and wellness professionals to help with lifestyle factors such as nutrition, exercise, stress management, mindfulness or other complementary practices.
Organisations should include menopause provision in policies relating to health and wellbeing, absence management, performance management, working patterns, induction processes and mandatory training.
Policies should consider the impact of environmental factors on menopause symptoms as well as clothing and uniform policies, facilities and access to equipment such as fans and technology tools.
How can We Help?
Floresco Training specialises in workplace training for both managers and colleagues. We run awareness sessions and workshops to help organisations get the conversation around menopause started. Our sessions are informative, interactive, inclusive and fun.
Our sessions provide accurate, evidence based information about what menopause is, the symptoms and treatment options and how women can help manage their symptoms.
They also provide managers with the knowledge and tools to have productive and supportive conversations with their direct reports, practical help to identify and implement reasonable workplace adjustments and signposting to further help and guidance.
For more information or to arrange a call visit www.florescotraining.co.uk