The Labour Party has said it will require all large employers to introduce a menopause workplace policy to break the stigma associated with the menopause.
Under the next Labour government, employers with over 250 employees will be required to provide training for line managers on the menopause; offer flexible working policies; ensure absence procedures are flexible to accommodate menopause; and carry out risk assessments to consider the specific needs of menopausal women and ensure the working environment will not make their symptoms worse.
Adjustments that employers could be required to make could include the provision of ventilation facilities, access to cold water and giving women flexible working hours if their sleep pattern is disturbed.
Research has shown that many women feel ill-equipped to manage the symptoms of menopause at work. Three out of five working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms said it has a negative impact on them at work, affects their confidence and makes them feel unable to disclose their symptoms when taking sick leave.
Nearly a third said they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms, but only a quarter of them felt able to tell their manager the real reason for their absence.
Many women consider working part-time or leaving work altogether because of a lack of the flexible working hours or working practices they need to deal with their symptoms. A report by ITV, in conjunction with Wellbeing of Women, found that a quarter of those surveyed had considered leaving their jobs because of the menopause.
Dawn Butler MP, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, said the policy will support women experiencing the symptoms of menopause in the workplace.
“Together we must end the stigma and ensure that no woman is put at a disadvantage, from menstruation to menopause,” she added.
Philip Richardson, partner and head of employment law at Stephensons Solicitors, said forward-thinking organisations are introducing menopause-specific policies in the workplace as it is increasingly becoming accepted as an occupational health issue.
“Although an often taboo subject it’s important for employers of all sizes to be aware of this issue and for women to feel comfortable enough to be able to approach their employer and have an open conversation about their experiences of the menopause,” he added. “Better HR training for managers is a good starting point, but it’s also important that employers take the time to consider their working practices and making suitable adjustments where needed.”