The menopause is a growing occupational health issue, with women making up almost half the workforce.
The symptoms affect women’s working lives, but policies to support them are lacking and it’s often treated as a joke in workplaces.
Ignorance about, and negative attitudes towards, the menopause only add to stress at work.
NEC member Karen Watts wrote two PCS blogs for International Women’s Day in March, which offered advice for managing women experiencing the menopause – a natural process that will affect more than half of our members at some stage in her life.
Some facts on the menopause:
- The menopause marks the time when a woman’s periods stop. It usually happens over a few years between age 45 and 55. It can alter a woman’s health and also cause emotional changes. Symptoms include hot flushes, disturbed sleep, irritability, urinary problems, heavy periods, anxiety and depression.
- In a 2016 Wales TUC survey (opens PDF) of almost 4,000 workers, nearly 90% of women experiencing the menopause said it had affected their working life. TUC research has also shown the work environment can worsen symptoms, with many women saying high temperatures, poor toilet facilities or lack of access to cold water were causing problems. A big issue was that stress could lead to increased symptoms.
- Unions have a role to play in challenging attitudes to the menopause, ensuring that their employer has procedures in place and offering support to women experiencing problems. TUC training is available for reps, who can raise the issue and ensure the workplace is risk-assessed and meets the needs of women experiencing the menopause. Having more women safety reps can be helpful.
- Millions of working women are aged over 50. Women need support from managers, who should be trained on how the menopause can affect them at work. The Health and Safety at Work Act requires them to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees, and they have a duty not to discriminate under the Equality Act.
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