Women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing portion of the UK workforce, and most of these will go through the menopause during their working lives. Yet, the topic within most workforces remains a taboo. As a result, many women experiencing menopausal symptoms go unsupported and therefore struggle to bring their best selves to work. CIPD research found that 59% of women experiencing menopausal symptoms said it had a negative impact on their work.
To help ensure women get the right support when going through the menopause transition, necessary public policy measures need to be put in place. That is why this week, in line with International Menopause Day (19 October), the CIPD launched its manifesto for menopause at work at the Houses of Parliament. The event, hosted by Rachel Maclean MP, also heard from Carolyn Harris MP (both prominent menopause advocates), Janet Trowse, Network Rail, and Rachel Suff and Claire McCartney, public policy advisers at the CIPD.
Rachel Maclean MP opened discussions by welcoming the increasing attention being given to the menopause across the media. However, she stressed that more needs to be done from a public policy point of view: ‘menopause is a neglected area of public policy. Policymakers must ensure menopause is a priority issue across departments and work with organisations like the CIPD to break this ultimate taboo.’
Keeping the conversation going about the menopause at work is essential. Janet Trowse, who created a menopause policy at Network Rail, urged attendees to talk about this issue with colleagues. Normalizing menopause as a topic of conversation will help to break the taboo within workplaces. This will also help lead to open and inclusive cultures in organisations, which are essential to helping those going through the menopause to get the support they need.
A public policy imperative: what the CIPD is calling for
Supporting women through the menopause transition strikes at the heart of a number of key public policy issues – including employee health and well-being, gender equality and workplace inclusion.
Rachel Suff and Claire McCartney outlined the CIPD’s three menopause policy calls to government:
1. The Government should ensure that menopause is referenced as a priority issue in its public policy agenda on work, diversity and inclusion
We are calling on the Government to consider menopause when scoping out the implications of public policy and make this explicit in their policy papers. Menopause has been largely neglected as an economic, workplace and diversity and inclusion issue throughout recent government strategies and policy papers. The Modern Industrial Strategy, Fuller Working Lives Strategy, Ageing Grand Challenge, and Improving Lives Strategy all address key economic challenges such as keeping people in work for longer, reducing the gender pay gap, and employee health and well-being - yet none mention the menopause.
2. The Government should nominate a Menopause Ambassador to represent the interests of women experiencing menopause transition across Government departments
To reinforce the first recommendation, we are calling on the Government to appoint a Menopause Ambassador who can work across Government departments such as GEO, BEIS, DWP and DHSC. This ambassador will ensure departments are joined up and considering the implications of public policy on women experiencing menopause transition.
3. The Government should support an employer-led campaign to raise awareness of the menopause as a workplace issue
To improve the experience of women experiencing the menopause at work, the Government should publicly support an employer-led campaign to raise awareness of the menopause as a workplace issue. The campaign should be supported by professional bodies, trade unions and employer groups. It will focus on improving workplace and people management practices such as flexible working, line management and health and well-being at work policies. This will help to keep women in work for longer, reduce the gender pay gap, erase some of the stigma surrounding the menopause and improve productivity.
CIPD resources for people professionals
The CIPD has produced a range of free downloadable and printable resources to help both people professionals and line managers develop menopause-friendly workplaces. This include guidance, practical tips, posters and leaflets.
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At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.