Many companies have been in the news recently for the support they are offering to the menopausal women in the workforce – from Timpsons offering to fund HRT, to PwC teaching its managers how to talk to staff about the menopause. They are just two organisations taking the lead in supporting their employees who are going through the menopause.
Jo Moffatt CMgr CCMI, practice director for digital asset management in the transportation business at Atkins, member of the SNC-Lavalin Group and deputy chair of CMI Women, hosted a recent Chartered Companions discussion on this topic. Besides answering some key questions about the menopause, the discussion also highlighted some practical changes managers can make to improve support for their menopausal employees.
1. Provide information and training to employees and managers
Many women don’t immediately realise that they are going through the menopause due to the lack of information and discussion about it, says Andrew Bazeley, policy, insight & public affairs manager at women’s charity The Fawcett Society. Jo agrees: “It took me about six to 12 months to realise what was happening. It’s a lonely place.”
This is one reason why putting information out there is so important. It also shows employees that this is something the company cares about and is open to discuss, helping to break the stigma.
There are different ways to do this, for example you can simply post information on your intranet – Jo even used the company intranet to share her own story. “I realised there needs to be some role models out there. I published my story on the intranet for more visibility.”
There are also companies such as Henpicked that will come in and talk to employees. Bill Moore CBE CMgr CCMI found this insight particularly resonated with the way his company decided to develop his team about mental health. “At my previous company, I got Mind in who spoke to our Directors first. This enabled the senior leaders to understand the issues and establish how best to implement them. We then broadened it out to the rest of the team. You’ve got to educate top-down,” he says.
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2. Publish guidance
Gideon Franklin CMgr CCMI commented that, beyond simply providing information and training, he wants a review of the company website and policies so people “know it’s official”. “We could bring ‘menopause’ into the vocabulary,” he adds.
3. Create a menopause champion
“Some women may not want to discuss the menopause, especially with a male manager, and would prefer to speak to a designated, trained HR professional or menopause champion,” says Andrew. Though it’s important to think about how this affects the company culture. Bill makes the point that the CEO and leadership team should be clearly championing the issue to make sure the change in culture is felt. “It has to come from the top.”
4. Demonstrate leadership
Senior leaders need to take the initiative and start the conversation. This helps to cascade the idea that this is something we can discuss in our workplace.
“It needs to come from the business, not HR. You can show leadership by starting the conversation and raising its importance, but pass on to better equipped colleagues to push forward the work,” says Andrew.
5. Set up networks
At Atkins, Jo set up a closed support network group for women going through the menopause to connect and support each other. They then realised the need to engage the rest of the organisation and so also created an open menopause awareness group.
Be sensitive to women feeling nervous. “As a senior person, I felt a little uncomfortable using the networks as I was scared to appear less competent,” says Jo.
Managers can also go to the Kooth community where members can share experiences and open discussions.
6. Secure employee benefits
Employee assistance programmes and medical insurance very often don’t include menopause cover, so organisations should consider finding a programme that does, or pressuring their provider to include it. While the costs can mount for individuals, comparatively for businesses “HRT is not expensive – measures like this are really good for a business,” says Andrew.
7. Allow flexible working
Reasonable adjustments such as working from home or staggered hours can be particularly helpful. For example, working from home can help combat tiredness by reducing the commute, making temperature control easier and allowing women better access to toilets if they are suffering from heavy bleeding or urine leaking.
8. Facilitate more breaks
The ability to take breaks, particularly between meetings, is beneficial for all employees. For menopausal women it can also help combat tiredness. “Consider having meetings last 25 minutes to allow time for breaks,” says Andrew. Making sure you have pause rooms is also helpful here, rather than women having to take breaks in the toilets, he adds.
9. Allow exemptions from hot desking
Being allowed to stay at the same desk is another simple adjustment that can make life easier. If an individual has recall aids or a fan on their desk, it’s not practical to move these around constantly and explain to colleagues what’s going on.
10. Look at your culture
“The scale of changes and adjustments is not huge – many organisations already make them for employees with other medical issues. In terms of culture, it’s about beginning that conversation and keeping it going,” concludes Andrew.
Image: Shutterstock/ Monkey Business Images
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