Recognising the impact menopause has on women is important – it’s a natural stage of life which will affect all women.
There are three different stages within the menopause: Perimenopause, the period before menopause when menopausal symptoms start. Perimenopause can begin up to a decade before the menopause. Menopause, which is when the woman’s periods stop. And Postmenopause, the time after a woman’s periods stop. A woman is considered postmenopausal when she has not had a period for 12 months.
There can often be a perception that the menopause is a middle-aged women’s issue, but this really isn’t the case. While for most, the menopause will occur between 45 and 55, about 5% of women will experience early menopause, occurring before the age of 45, and 1 in 100 will experience premature menopause, before the age of 40. When you consider that perimenopause can begin up to a decade before the menopause, it’s not unusual for women to experience menopausal symptoms in their 40’s or before. It’s important for men to be aware of and understand issues associated with the menopause too, and this may be especially so in the workplace.
There are a range of difficulties that women experience because of perimenopause and menopause. Common symptoms women report include night sweats, fatigue, migraines, forgetfulness, becoming more clumsy, difficulties with concentration, retaining information, joint pain, muscle stiffness, little motivation, low self-esteem, low mood, mood swings, irritability, poor sleep with early morning wakening and reduced libido. For further information please visit NHS Inform.
Often women have not realised that what they are experiencing is linked to the menopause, in fact approximately 50% of women don’t seek medical support for menopause-related difficulties that they are experiencing.
Menopause in the workplace
Over 75% of NHS Scotland’s workforce are female, while 83% of the social care workforce are women, managing the impact of the menopause at work is important for both employers and their staff. Women are often expected to continue, particularly at work, as though the perimenopause/ menopause is not taking a toll. For those experiencing symptoms it can be a difficult and stressful time. Everyone will experience the menopause differently and for some, symptoms can be quite severe and can affect them both physically and mentally. Women frequently report that the psychological symptoms can be the hardest to cope with and can have an impact on their confidence.
As a manager, it would be helpful for your organisation to think about how it supports staff through what can be a difficult period in their life. Raising awareness of the difficulties that can be experienced is important, however it is also worth remembering that for many women this is a sensitive issue and they may not feel comfortable discussing it with colleagues or managers.
The Scottish Government have launched a Menopause and Menstrual Health Workplace Policy, which aims to support NHS Scotland staff experiencing the menopause or affected by their menstrual health. More information on the policy can be found here. While the policy applies specifically to NHS Scotland staff, two additional guides have been published, a Line Managers Guide and a Workplace Adjustments Guide, which are intended for use across a variety of employment sectors.
NHS Ayrshire & Arran have produced a couple of really helpful resources on the menopause. The first is a ‘Seven Minute Briefing’ factsheet called “Let’s talk about the menopause”, which you can find here. They have also produced an information booklet for staff, to support them through the menopause. You can find the booklet here.
Close the Gap have developed helpful guidance on supporting women through the menopause in the workplace. You might also find it helpful to take a look at the Scottish Government’s Women’s Health Plan.
Women’s Health Concern have developed an information sheet on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CPT) for menopausal symptoms, which you might find helpful in managing a number of menopause-related health problems. You can find the information sheet by following this link.
ACAS also provides training on menopause at the workplace that you might find useful
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