Many employers have made progress with supporting those with menopause symptoms at work. However, this isn’t the case across the board and more can certainly be done to create a supportive culture. And organisations should do this if they want to attract and retain a diverse employee base. CIPD research shows that a lack of support can have a negative impact on career progression and can even cause some women to leave the workplace entirely.
So, what more should organisations be doing to create a menopause supportive workplace and empower employees to manage their symptoms and thrive in work? Listen to our webinar and hear advice and tips from our panel of experts:
- Helen Tomlinson, the UK Government’s Menopause Employment Champion and Head of Talent (UK and Ireland), The Adecco Group
- Angie Voidloss, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Associated British Foods
- Rachel Suff, Senior Policy Adviser – Employee Relations, CIPD
Chaired by Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Adviser – Resourcing and Inclusion, CIPD.
Creating menopause supportive workplaces
Claire McCartney: Well, okay. Welcome everyone. I think that we are going to get underway and we are recording our session. So, a big welcome to our CIPD webinar on creating menopause supportive workplaces and we are holding this during menopause awareness month. So, in today’s discussion we are going to explore how to create a menopause-friendly work environment and how to empower employees to continue to work and thrive whilst experiencing menopause transition. I am Claire McCartney and I sit within our public policy team at the CIPD and alongside my colleague Rachel who is on our Webinar today, we lead our work at the CIPD on menopause. So, I’m really delighted to be your chair for today and I am very much looking forward to our discussion.
So, we have some really great panellists lined up for our discussion today including Rachel Suff who is our Senior Policy Advisor for employee relations at the CIPD. We are also delighted to have Helen Tomlinson with us today who is the UK Government’s menopause employment champion and is also Head of Talent: UK and Ireland at the Adecco Group and we are really excited to be collaborating with Helen to raise the profile of menopause support at work and we are also really happy to have Angie Voidloss with us today who is Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Associated British Foods and we are really looking forward to hearing all about the work that Angie is doing around menopause support.
So, please do get your questions into our panel as they speak and we have reserved some time at the end of the webinar to answer as many of these as we can. So, we’ll get into your questions and get into that discussion. I’d like to just do a little bit of housekeeping if I may, just to start off with. So, just to let you know this session is being recorded and will be available on demand through the webinar section of the CIPD website. To submit questions to the panel, please do type these into the Q&A box not the chat box which we are not going to be checking. In terms of resources, we’ve got some practical guidance for HR and for People Managers on menopause support which you can find on our website. So, please do take a look at that after the webinar if you’re interested. CIPD members can get individual legal advice. So, you can call our HR Inform Helpline and it’s available 24/7. Also, CIPD members in UK and Ireland can also access our Wellbeing Hub and Helpline. Together with award-winning workplace wellbeing provider Heath Assured, we provide CIPD members with free help and support 24/7 and 365 days a year via telephone or online consultations with qualified therapists. Members can access the phone number and the online services via the membership benefits webpage and we’ll say a little bit more about that at the end of this session as well.
So, before I hand you over to our first panellist, I would like to just say a little bit about our menopause work at the CIPD. Now, it’s an area that we started to focus on back in 2018, actually, and we recognised that there was a substantial gap in workplace support and guidance and also a considerable taboo around talking about menopause experiences. At that time, actually, according to our data, less than one in ten organisations had any kind of support in place. So, we launched menopause manifesto in Westminster calling, among other things, for a menopause employment champion and we are so delighted that we have Helen and she is trailblazing in terms of what she’s doing around menopause support. We also launched, just yesterday, a new wide-reaching survey on women’s experience of menopause in the workplace and Rachel is going to be outlining those details this afternoon in further detail. At a policy level, we’ve been invited to give evidence to parliamentary enquiries on the menopause; one by the All Party Parliamentary Group on menopause and the second was the Women and Equality Select Committee and we’re really encouraged to see the current parliament spotlight on this issue. We’ve also been part of a 50+ Choices Task and Finish Group on the menopause and Rachel has been involved in an NHS Steering Group to improve menopause support in NHS England which is really important.
So, we know that many employers have made progress with supporting women with menopause symptoms at work and our latest figure suggests this is certainly the case. I am not going to steal Rachel’s thunder by giving you the figure but it has certainly increased but we know that this isn’t necessarily the case across the board and more can certainly be done to create a supportive culture. Certainly, in recent weeks, we’ve seen some high-profile Employment Tribunal cases and I think this really further highlights the importance of employers getting their support right when it comes to creating menopause friendly workplaces. So, what more should organisations be doing to create a menopause supportive workplace and empower employees to manage their symptoms and thrive in the workplace?
So, I’m going to handover now to our first panellist which is Rachel Suff to share some insights from our new survey and discuss these in a little more detail. So, over to you, Rachel.
Rachel Suff: Thanks so much, Claire. So, on my first slide, you can see that I’m going to start with the good news and Claire is absolutely right, we are seeing real progress in terms of the number of organisations that are supporting people with menopause to transition. If you look, first of all, at the chart on the right-hand side, and these are findings from our health and wellbeing at work survey report, [incomprehensible] which we published just last week. So, this is the first bit of research showing that progress but you can see on that right-hand side, the slide shows that almost half, 46% of HR professionals, so their wellbeing activity includes provision for menopause transition. That activity could be policy, training, line-manager guidance, awareness raising, so, quite broad but the important thing to note is that when we asked that same question four years ago, it was just under one in ten. So, what that means is that we’ve seen a fourfold increase in four years and that’s remarkable progress. On the left-hand side, you can see in that pie chart, when we asked does your organisation encourage an open and supportive climate where people can talk about menopause, you can see that the finding is even higher, 49% said yes. It’s really important to look at those two findings together because what we want is a holistic approach; a policy, training, awareness raising, all those are very important and can all play their part in creating supportive workplaces around menopause transition but it also has to focus on the culture as Claire mentioned. We need to have workplaces where people can talk about menopause and I will return to that important point later on.
On the next slide, just a question, where does this lead us in terms of what we’ve achieved and where we need to go next? What more is needed because our work isn’t done yet. Claire has mentioned how much we welcome the government action that’s been taken so far to create menopause-friendly workplaces. We are delighted to be collaborating with Helen to build on the work that has been done so far and we really do believe now at CIPD that the increased public policy focus and the employer action that we’re seeing means that we are in a really good place now. The foundations are there, we think, to create a future where every employee with menopause symptoms can receive understanding and support because that’s our ultimate aim. We want every employee to feel that they can talk about menopause and get that support and that’s the message that is highlighted in our manifesto for menopause at work.
So, if we move onto the next slide, here comes the ‘but’ really because great progress but this is not the time to relax. Quite the opposite because we have a very clear picture now of what’s possible because we’ve seen such great progress but we need to close the gap completely and make sure that we can achieve that vision of every employee in every workplace. Now, this brings us onto the research that we published just this week and it’s on the experiences of women in employment. Around 2,000 we surveyed in the UK about their experiences of menopause and work and there are some really impactful findings. So, a very diverse sample that we reached as well. So, the first finding really is that just one in four, despite all that progress I’ve just mentioned, just one in four are aware of their employer having any provision for menopause which means that even if the support is there, it very well might be in some of those organisations, organisations need to get much better at communicating, being proactive, sharing the support, signposting and so on because this gap still exists and we need to now be intent on closing it.
So, on the next slide, I highlight a really big impact in terms of that gap and this impact is on career progression. Now, if people at work, women at work, aren’t able to realise their full potential, that doesn’t just effect the individuals. It very much effects the individual but it’s also going to have an impact on your organisation as well at a time when organisations cannot afford not to be making the most of all their skills and talent but we can see here that a standout finding is that over a quarter of women in work with symptoms of menopause say they have had a negative impact on their career progression. Now, if you scale that up in terms of the findings across the UK labour market, that’s around 1,200,000 women in work and that’s a huge number but also it’s not just about the numbers because behind these numbers, sit the experiences of real people who are living with the reality of not achieving their career aspirations through a lack of support for what is a natural life event and this just isn’t right. These stories, these experiences were really brought home to us through all the individual stories and all of the feedback that we had from our survey respondents and some of those stories were really hard-hitting. Some of them were heart-breaking, actually, and I’ve put one example up here and I’ll read it out. Somebody told us that I’ve been unable to continue a career which I developed over a period of 25+ years due to being unsupported with symptoms of brain fog, extreme fatigue, mood swings, stress and this has led to me having to take part-time low-paid work and there were other hard-hitting experiences like that as well.
If we move onto the next slide, we can appreciate some of the wider impacts, as well, in terms of that gap, what does that mean in reality for people at work, today? Well, almost one in four had considered leaving work or have left work due to a lack of support for their menopause symptoms and let’s be mindful of those in Employment Tribunals, that Claire mentioned as well, they’re a real warning bell for employers that aren’t providing support. Then the second bullet, having a disability or long-term health condition can understandably exacerbate the impact of menopause symptoms at work and not having that support in place as well. So, a high percentage of people with a health condition or disability report a negative impact on career progression, a higher percentage have left work or considered leaving work and so on. Then also, across the board, individuals who feel unsupported at work by their employer are significantly more likely to report more pressure and more stress. Moving down, last but one bullet, over half had been unable to go into work due to their menopause symptoms and that is not surprising given the number of symptoms that somebody can experience and also how debilitating some can be because we know around a quarter of those with symptoms experience really debilitating symptoms. Finally, the final bullet here, almost three quarters felt unable to mention the menopause as the reason for them being unable to go into work. They couldn’t talk to their manager about the real reason; that must feel so isolating, as well, when you’re experiencing these symptoms anyway to not actually feel the confidence or to feel comfortable that you are working in an environment where you can actually be open about it, as well.
On the next slide, I’m going to return now to the positive because here comes the opportunity. We’ve had the gap, here’s opportunity because what we can also see from our research, what comes through so strongly and positively is the huge difference that workplace support can make to somebody with menopause symptoms. It reduces the impact of people’s symptoms at work, it can reduce the pressure and stress that people feel and it also has a positive impact on people feeling able to progress their careers and not wanting to leave work. That has to be good for the employer, as well, doesn’t it? So, very strong business rationale for organisations to act on this, as well. They need all the valuable skills and talent they can get at the moment as well as it just being the right thing to do.
Then, just want to very quickly on the next slide, outline some valued types of support because we asked employees well, what support is in place where it is in place and then what would you most value and I think the important thing to say upfront is that there’s not always alignment between what’s on offer and what would be most valued. So, organisations need to really engage with people and see what would be most valued, most helpful to help manage menopause symptoms. Here are the most valued; first of all, planned, flexible working, That was the top one and let’s remember to be creative around that because not everybody can work from home, it can be great if you can to manage symptoms but we need to look beyond just hybrid and home working. There are other flexible working opportunities that can help. Then, ability to control local temperature. Last minute or unplanned late starts and there’s others as well. I think an important note, as well, is that small changes can make a big difference for people. Even just changing a shift pattern or being able to start a bit late because you had a terrible night, I’ve been in that situation countless times. Also what’s important is that support is kept under review because symptoms can really fluctuate and, following on from that, it’s really important to tailor support to suit the individual because they will all experience differently at different times. So, ensuring that line managers, they aren’t embarrassed, can talk about menopause, also knows how to signpost and provide support is really important. That sensitive conversation is really a gamechanger in terms of being able to discuss your symptoms.
Then the last slide is just returning to the point that I said I would do which is around the importance of healthy workplace culture. I have already mentioned this. Practical support is very important but also the less tangible, the wider climate, the environment, can you talk about health issues generally, can you talk about menopause specifically and we’ve got the data to prove it, as well, in this survey because when we asked those women with symptoms who did feel supported, why they felt supported it wasn’t primarily because there was a policy there or even training or awareness. All these things can play a part but it was essentially because they felt that they worked in an environment where there was a healthy workplace culture. So, really important to start talking about the menopause, open up the culture so that people can have conversations and the role of colleagues comes through really strongly in this research as well. So, it’s really important, I think, to realise that we have all got a role to play. Men too. This isn’t just a female issue. So, we all play a part in creating that culture. So, I’ll leave that there.
CM: Brilliant, Rachel. Thank you so much. I think that’s a really insightful overview. There are some really strong, compelling statistics there but also, I think, evidence around how support can lessen some of the negative impact in the workplace around symptoms and how important it is. So, a really, really useful kick-off to our discussions. Thank you so much, Rachel.
So, now I’d like to handover to our second panellist who is Helen Tomlinson to hear about the work that she’s been doing in her menopause employment champion role. I know she is incredibly busy all the time but particularly this month with menopause awareness month and also perhaps some of the initiatives she’s put in place across the Adecco Group, as well. So, over to you Helen.
Helen Tomlinson: Thank you and thank you so much for inviting me here today. So, I’m just going to talk more broadly. I don’t have a slide deck today but I thought it would be really good to give an overview of the role, what I’m doing in that role and the impact that we hope that will have on organisations. I’ve just been making a few notes from the chat coming through and the questions and things. So, I hope that I can cover some of those in this but, obviously, we will come back to it. So, as Claire quite rightly said, my role is the government’s menopause employment champion role. I took this role in March of this year and I’ve just launched, I’m about to launch, I’m having it signed off by government, my six month report of what I’ve done in the first six months and what the plan is moving forward. So, I’d be really happy to share that and I’m delighted that CIPD are one of my strategic partners who are amplifying the messaging. So, I’m sure they will be happy to share that when that comes out.
As Claire also said, the role was at the request of the Women and Equality Select Committee that the government had somebody specifically focused on menopause in the workplace and also at the request of the 50+ DWP employment champions that somebody was focused on it. So, I hope that the work I am doing really resonates with those two groups that requested that the role be created. I do have a day job as well and, I guess, my day job kind of led into this role, as well. So, just to give you a little bit of history on that, I am the Head of Talent and Inclusion at the Adecco Group. We are an HR and recruitment organisation and I launched our menopause policy on menopause day 2021 and as many organisations do or did, thought it was a great thing to launch that policy and it absolutely was, however, in hindsight, it was just the start. All it was, was the catalyst that started the conversation around education and allyship in the organisation that has created the cultural change. We know there’s been culture change, we are entirely data-led in our organisation and our data creates our strategy from a broader Ed & I perspective and we know that the work that we’ve done around that has had an impact in the organisation but I think the most important thing, when you think about that, is that was the first policy that we launched. We now call it guiding principles because we have one Ed & I policy and anything that sits beneath that is a guiding principle. So, we’ve been able to add to that on a multitude of topics over time but what that has done is broaden that conversation out for the organisation in a way that we could never have imagined. So, yes, the policy is incredibly important but it’s only important because it creates that culture, starts to create that cultural change. What is equally important, on the back of it, is the manager training, the allyship training, the champions programmes, the safe space conversations that all come after that and how you launch it is really important. You know, we did a podcast with very senior leaders who were willing to talk about their menopause experience in the workplace, both the practical and psychological aspects of it and what that did is open up the conversation for people to say that’s me, I’m struggling with that as well and if somebody who looks like they’ve got it all together and they’re doing a phenomenal job struggles with lack of confidence, anxiety, brain fog, heavy periods, whatever that particular aspect was, it normalised the conversation and it allowed those people in the organisation who were being medicated for, you know, depression and anxiety who actually weren’t, took the step to go back and see their GP and said, you know, I am from what I’ve read and what I’ve seen, from the symptom checker that we provide, I am in perimenopause and I want to have the right support. So, a lot of great stuff came out of that.
At the same time, I was lobbying government to get them to make it a legal requirement to have a menopause policy for organisations over 250 people and I started talking to Carolyn Harris. I started talking to MPs more broadly and that is how I came into this role. So, I’ll just give you a little overview of what the strategy is for, it’s called no time to step back and I firmly believe that the menopause experience, the transition is absolutely no time to step back in your career. We are losing women in leadership roles at the fastest rate ever according to the McKinsey report of 2022 and they are not being replaced by other female leaders and that is a real issue. Partly the reason for that is that women are leaving because they are overworked, exhausted and they want to work for an organisation with more purpose. So, some of those things could be related to menopause, they could be related to the myriad of other things that mid-life women have going on whether that be caring responsibilities, whatever that looks like but it is an issue because other females coming through are not seeing those female role models and that’s then a self-fulfilling prophecy, there are less and less female leaders. If you think about the fact that we are going to have to work much longer, potentially. So, we are in the workplace longer, you know, from a financial, pension perspective, it’s really important but also from a very personal perspective, if you’ve worked really hard to get to where you are, why should you step down, step back or step out of your career? I have spoken to many women who have felt that they have no choice but to do that and the example Rachel gave in the report was just one of many, many women who feel like they’ve got no choice.
So, the strategy is, there’s five aspects to it. So, focusing on five specific sectors and so they are manufacturing, retail, hospitality, hair and professional and technical and looking at those and how we support women in those sectors going through menopause to make sure that they have the best possible experience. The second aspect of it is that we will have a four-point plan. So, the four point plan is as follows; the first aspect of that is that we will have best practice sharing and we kicked this off last week with a cross-sector round table event at Westham where we invited large organisations to share their best practice and the output of that is that all those organisations are willing to share their best practice with smaller organisations that may not have access, they may not have an HR team, they may not have the budget, they may not have an Ed & I committee, so, to make sure that they get the right support and those women who choose to work for SME organisations that make up 90% of the UK economy and three fifths of people work in the SME sector or are self-employed, to make sure they get access to all that best practice. It will all be free on the government’s help to grow portal and the reason that it’s free is because I am passionate about the fact that it has to be for everybody regardless of the size of their organisation, regardless of the socio-economic demographic, regardless of their ethnicity, regardless of whether they have an HR department or not. So, it’s absolutely free for everybody. They will share their best practice and there will also be guidance, websites, all of that free resource on there that anybody can go to.
The second aspect of it is about the isolation and feeling that you’ve nobody to talk to and a lot of the many fantastic, large employers that I’ve spoken to have got those allyship networks, they’ve got those, you know, a hot-topics coffee morning once a month, we have an allyship programme, we have champions, we have fully trained line managers, we have, you, know, EAPs that we can guide people to but I’ve spoken to women who have literally nobody to talk to, nobody in the workplace, nobody, you know, in their social circle that could be because from an ethnicity perspective, they just quite simply don’t have the words for it. Culturally, they just don’t talk about it. So, they’ve nobody to talk to. So, the national allyship programme will link up people in smaller organisations with counterparts in the same sector in larger organisations who are doing good work and what that will do is it will give people who are struggling somebody to talk to but it will also give line managers, colleagues etcetera somebody to talk to in terms of how do I navigate this conversation, how do I, you know, share that best practice. So, nobody should feel that they’ve got nobody to reach out and talk to.
The third aspect of it is the menopause employer pledge and the reason that I’m passionate about that is because I feel that, you know, women need choices and the whole of the no time to step back strategy isn’t for competitive advantage and I’m delighted that all the employers that want to be part of it are willing to share what they’re doing to better the experience of women everywhere. So, I think that’s really important but women will make choices about where they want to work and the employers that they want to work for. So, if they can go to an employer who has signed a pledge or an accreditation, that will give them better choices. It will also help to support the 630,000 women who are on universal credit between the ages of 45 and 55. It’s really challenging. If you’ve been out of work for any period of time, for whatever the reason, it’s really challenging coming back into the workplace. Overlay that with the fact that you may have gone into perimenopause or menopause whilst you’re out of the workplace, that can make it doubly hard and I want women to be able to make good choices about the kind of employer they’re going to work for.
The final aspect of the strategy is around the amplification. I am one person with another job. So, I am delighted that I’ve got the buy in from the key sector bodies for those five sectors and I’ve also got my partners, CIPD being one of them, who will absolutely support and champion the messaging to get more employers talking about women’s health more broadly in the workplace and I say women’s health quite specifically because when I took the role, I started off just talking about menopause. I think the world at large has really just started talking about perimenopause in the last two years. So, that’s opening it up more broadly. The average age of perimenopause is 41. So, it’s opening up. We’ve got five generations in our workforce, I’m sure many of you have too but talking about women’s health more broadly quite literally is from the day you start in an organisation right through till that day, you know, you can retire when you’re 67 as it stands at the moment, people who are my age. So, it’s more about women’s health and that includes, I saw somebody talking about period management in the workplace in the chat and that allows us to talk more broadly because 44% of women struggle from heavy periods in perimenopause and menopause. So, you know, that is something that anybody can find challenging and it’s one of the toughest conversations to have with a line manager particularly if you’re in a non-autonomous role. So, in addition to the strategy, I’m thinking about the autonomous roles which can be great and I know that was one of the aspects. So, 67% of people surveyed in the CIPD survey said home or hybrid working would make it easier. Hybrid working, completely agree, but I found when I was home working, when I was perimenopausal, the anxiety, the loss of confidence, that feeling of can I actually still do this job, that was actually made worse by working from home. So, the 67% of women that said the psychological symptoms were difficult to deal with, it’s also, I felt that they were exacerbated being isolated, working in an autonomous role but then there are non-autonomous roles where you literally have no choice but to show up and, again, that can be very challenging both from a psychological perspective but also a very practical perspective.
The final thing that I just wanted to touch on that’s underpinning my strategy is around it’s not just, it’s for everybody, absolutely everybody is impacted by whether they realise that or not. 51% of the population will go through it, women over 50 are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace. I was at two really key sessions a couple of weeks ago. One was at a manufacturing place, I can’t get the right word, but a manufacturing site, it’s huge, and they were talking about some of their people on the manufacturing line, very male dominated but one of the team had come into work and said I don’t feel that I can operate large, heavy machinery today, I’ve been awake all night, my wife is really struggling with insomnia, night sweats, we haven’t got a spare room she can sleep in because we have got children in the other rooms, I don’t feel like I should be operating heavy machinery but he felt he had the psychological safe space to come in and say that. I was working with a Police force last week, as well, and they said they’ve got a firearms officer who pretty much said the same thing. Should I be in charge of a firearm when I haven’t had any sleep because of that experience. So, it’s not just thinking about women in the workplace and people who experience menopause and, obviously, andropause from a male perspective. It’s about how that impacts on the other people around them, those in and out of the workplace.
So, when the report is signed off, it will be launched and the overview of the strategy will be in there but if any employer is interested in being part of the working parties that will support, and I’ve met some incredible people, one of them is coming up next to talk about what they’re doing in their organisation but it is so good to have so many employers willing to share to make the experience better for people in the workplace more broadly. So, thank you and I hope that’s given you some insight and I really hope you’ll follow and support on that journey. So, thank you.
CM: Brilliant. Thank you so much, Helen. We can feel your enthusiasm oozing through all of the things that you were saying. Some really nice comments in the chat around how refreshing it is that you’re, you know, focusing on specific sectors and also SMEs as well who often, kind of, feel a bit neglected in the coversaiton. So, many thanks for that. I’m really excited to hear about your strategy.
So, I’d like to now handover to our third and final panellist, Angie Voidloss to hear all about the work that’s happening at your organisation, Associated British Foods, and I know that you’ve, kind of, taken an international approach, as well. So, I’m sure we’ve got lots of international organisations here that will be interested as part of the webinar. So, just really looking forward to hearing from you. Over to you, Angie.
Angie Voidloss: Thank you, Claire. Can you hear me okay?
Okay. Hello everyone. For those of you that don’t know much about Associated British Foods, I wanted to start by providing an overview because I think that the context is really key. So, could I have the next slide, please. Thank you. So, this is us. We are an international food ingredients and retail business. We have got about 132,000 employees globally and, as you can see, we’ve got customers in over 100 countries but we operate in 53. Our group headquarters is in the UK and, actually, most of the work that we’ve done to date around menopause support has been in the UK but we are starting to do more internationally. A really key thing for us is that we have a devolved operating model. So, what this means in practice is that our businesses set objectives from the bottom up rather than the top down and any operational decisions are made locally by leaders who have specific knowledge of the business and their people, I work in the head office and amongst the many things that the head office does, it’s there to provide strategic level insight but support collaboration and enable sustainable business practices. So, all the while, we’re trying to learn from one another and share the good practice around the world.
In terms of the UK context, so, next slide, please. Thank you. We have a whole range of businesses. We have small, medium, large. They are in various different industries as you can see there from groceries, sugar, agriculture, ingredients and retail and, therefore, the environment our people work in is very, very different. The business sizes also mean that we have varying approaches that we need to take, varying budgets that are available. Hopefully, you recognise some of the brands up there but the context I think, what Helen was alluding to a manufacturing plant, that’s very, very, different to retail stores in Primark for example and, therefore, we’ve had to take quite a wide-ranging mix of approaches in order to be more supportive towards individuals in these environments.
So, we move onto look at the context that exists, thank you. I have put up some of the things there that we have been considering when we are thinking about how we can be more supportive because when you are experiencing symptoms, the environment that you’re working in, the location that you’re at, the working patterns can have a really big impact on that. So, to give you some of the extremes in terms of locations, we have some people who are based physically at a site or a couple of sites or possibly they have a mix of home working and onsite working and then we have those out in the field. So, they’re going round to customers, consumers, out and about, driving around and never in the same location day in and day out. The environment can be very different as well. On one extreme we have clean room laboratories which are climate controlled, regulated access. We also have people operating heavy machinery, we have drivers in uniforms, people on production lines in full PPE, they might be out at community events and we also have people working in offices and hybrid working, like myself, at home. So, the actual physical environment can be quite different too. We also have a mix of working patterns as every business does. So, some have the very autonomous roles that Helen alluded to with that flexibility, I can take a break when I want to, if I need to step away from the business, from my work, from my laptop, I can do. If I wanted to start a little bit later because I’ve had a rough night’s sleep, I am able to do that but many, many colleagues are not able to do that. Either because they need to be at a specific place at work or because they’re on a shift-pattern, they’re part of a team that’s working together. So, that flexibility really varies. Finally, one really key point is around the awareness and the access to resources. So, some people, like myself, have got computers, mobile phones, you know, very easy to access information and support at the touch of a finger. If I compare that to our colleagues who are operating machinery, they don’t have their own work device. We often have shared devices on our sites. So, there will be a group login so people can have a look at the apps and information on our businesses but they don’t have their own work device. So, increasingly, we’re having to find a way to provide people with access to their own personal device. So, overall, really different contexts which means across all of our businesses, we’ve had to take quite a wide range of approaches.
So, the next slide outlines some of the things we’ve done and what I really wanted to emphasise is not every business in ABF has done all of these things. So, what I’ve done is consolidate and pull it all together but this is by no means everyone doing everything and, also, some of them have been working on it for a few years, for others it’s more recent. So working our way across the top, we’ve asked people, we are aware personal experiences change, they are very different between people but, also, they shift over time. So, understanding what people need at that point in time and being flexible to adapt to that is really key. We’ve done discussion groups but we’ve also done surveys, as well, to try and understand what’s most important, what they will really value. We’ve run training, the more formal training that’s been instructor-led and we’ve had e-learning as well. So, people cab dip in and out of it and access information when they need it. We’ve done knowledge sharing events with internal and external speakers, sharing articles and resources. We’ve also looked at our polices and our processes. So, just recognising that if we want inclusive around this, acknowledging that a lot of the research refers to women specifically but we also want to acknowledge that it’s nonbinary people, transgender people. A lot of the imagery tends to focus on white women, historically, in the past. We wanted to make sure it is inclusive of all women. So, we are looking at that, as well, and also thinking about introducing or we have in one business introduced menopause being a reason for absence but that’s not just switching on a box in the system, it requires comms around it. So, it’s looking more holistically at that. We’ve also, where we have wellbeing providers who give us apps, counselling and so on, really tapped into the resources that those provide specifically around menopause and making people aware that that support is available too. Encouraging conversations has been really key. So, running support groups either mixed groups for those experiencing symptoms only, partner sessions we’ve done as well and also providing guidance to line managers so that they can have an effective, open conversation and create that very open culture where people feel able to share without being fearful of the consequences is really important and then with the others we’ve done media clubs, share what books you’ve read, films you’ve seen, TV programmes, podcasts, anything like that that has been really helpful. Looking at fabrics that we have got for PPE. So, making sure they’re breathable fabrics and then, finally, looking at supplies. So, in our bathrooms and washrooms, making sure that there sanitary and hygiene products as well as looking at ventilation and providing people with fans where practically able to do so. The final thing is we are members of Henpicked, So, working towards being a menopause friendly accreditation and a lot of their resources have supported us in providing that.
So, just to finish, I was going to provide some things we’ve learnt along the way. I think the key things there, you can read the key points off the slide, but the ones I really want to pick out is to ask people rather than to assume, you know, that’s been our key learning. Rather than try to meet the needs of everyone en masse is to look at people individually and be really tailored to what you’re providing. Using multiple media formats, different locations, different ways of communicating information is key and keep on with the messaging. So, people hear things but they need to keep hearing it to understand what support is available. We are focused on the needs of our audiences. So, you know, materials for line manager, slightly different pitch to those that are for individuals. Safe spaces have been really, really key. So, making sure it’s okay to ask questions, it’s okay to sometimes say the wrong thing if that’s a learning experience but confidential spaces have been really important. Engaging with everyone so not just line managers, colleagues can be just as supportive on a day-to-day basis and then really aligning with the business context, the tone, the formality so it feels like something that is regarded on equal value as everything else. Then the last two points about key people. So, role models who share their stories, give people the power to share their own experiences and particularly when it comes to a senior level, that senior level sponsorship, just make sure that time, money and resources are given towards this.
I’ll hand back to you Claire, now, for questions.
CM: Brilliant. Thank you so much, Angie. I think, like, a really great overview there of all of the things that you’re doing. So practical and really great to hear about what you’re doing to support frontline staff that need to be in a physical workspace is so important.
We have literally had loads of questions. So, we are going to get through as many as we can and I am going to try to pull out some, kind of, broad themes that I can see coming through in the Q&A. So, I think if I may, Helen, I am going to go to you first and we had quite an early question around whether we are aware of any information or likelihood of support by the government for menopause leave coming through in any of the conversations that you’ve had and this is an organisation that’s, you know, wanting to be prepared and, you know, ahead I think ahead around these sorts of things?
HT: Sorry, I dutifully put myself on mute.
I haven’t had any conversations around menopause leave yet. I guess, a lot of organisations are handling that in their own way as part of what they choose to do as best practice but, you know, as a straight answer, I haven’t had any conversations. That isn’t necessarily my remit but I haven’t heard anything.
CM: Yeah. Thanks, Helen.
There’s a couple of tactical questions from people. So, we could cover a few of those with you now. So, some people are asking around how you access the help to grow site. You talked about the allyship programme, how people can access that and then there was also a question around whether you could provide any more information around the symptom checker that you mentioned. So, just a few things.
HT: Yeah. So, I did drop in the chat that the help to grow portal exists now but we are adding to whatever already exists from a menopause perspective and it won’t go live until after World Menopause Day simply because, at the moment, we are in the process of working with the employers to collate all the information and the best practice and then, again, the allyship programme, we are working with a provider who has the tech platform who will be able to help us to host that. So, I’ve committed that that will go live for International Women’s Day because of the tech aspect of it, isn’t quite as easy as I naively assumed it would be. So, yeah, they are part of, I was just giving you an oversight of what’s in my report from my first six months and the future plan. So, they will come out soon and in terms of the symptom checker, the one that we’ve got is one that I’ve created for Adecco but I often recommend, and I’m really happy to share that with anybody who wants to see it, I often recommend the Balance app which is a free app that allows you to get support, track your symptoms, in order to be able to start a conversation whether that be with your line manager, your GP or with a partner, friends, relative etcetera. The paper one that we created or the online one that we created at Adecco does exactly the same thing the Balance app is just way more sophisticated.
CM: Brilliant. Thank you so much, Helen.
Rachel, we’re going to come across to you, we’ve had a question around some of the examples of some of the interventions which are seen as best practice and I know we talk about our four pillars at the CIPD, Rachel. So, I wondered whether you wanted to give a bit more information around those, potentially?
RS: So, on our website, is guidance for people, professionals and line managers. So, I think a lot of people might find those helpful if you want more detail of the, kind of, where do you start, what kind of framework do you develop, who should be responsible for what and we do have, as Claire said, these pillars and it’s a really useful, sort of, framework to look at. First of all, it really is around the culture and starting a conversation. I think you can be surprised at how quickly things can open up. We’ve had that at CIPD, as well. Once you start talking, things can really snowball and it’s a relief for so many people to be able to talk about menopause. So, opening up the conversation is a really good place to start but then you do need a people professional to look at what policies and health support you already provide and see is it helpful for people around menopause and do we need more explicit support and how do we involve people along that journey rather than just imposing. So, what about menopause champions, do you have wellbeing champions already and then look at how you manage absence as a question that’s come in around absence. It needs to be flexible, it’s not helpful to have a trigger system, really the guiding principle is to be fair and compassionate and flexible but, obviously, line managers need to feel confident about not applying a trigger system as well. So, it’s getting that balance of fairness and consistency but meeting people’s individual needs. Some people have found it helpful to have a wellbeing passport to outline what their symptoms are and then what support can be helpful, what adjustments. We’ve got a very helpful list on our website of the most common symptoms and the kind of changes and adjustments that could be most helpful for managing those but it is that conversation with the individual that really needs to be the centrepiece of all this because what’s helpful for one person may not be helpful for another.
CM: Absolutely. Thanks so much, Rachel.
Angie, if I could come across to you because I know that you were talking about this as part of your slide and I think it was your final slide. Someone was just asking about, you know, how do you introduce a structure around having that safe conversation in the workplace. Do you have any, sort of, tips that you can give about the approach that you’ve made around creating a safe space to talk about menopause and health issues, for instance?
AV: Yeah. So, we’ve done it in different ways. With the line managers, we’ve given them guidance about think about where you’re having the conversation, it’s not just about what you ask and how. you open that up but, you know, are you in a quiet area where you’re not going to be overheard or interrupted. Just as you would for any kind of confidential conversation and then we’ve given them information so that they have some understanding, they can build empathy towards the individual sharing experiences and we’ve given line managers the information about where to go, what support is available so that they can signpost people. We are not expecting them to be the experts but we’ve just enabled them to open up the conversation. When it comes to the group sessions, it’s a bit different. So, that’s just been about raising awareness and positioning it as safe space. So, a slightly different context there.
CM: Brilliant and really incredibly helpful, I think. So, thank you so much, Angie.
There was a question and I think Helen has alluded to it already about should we be broadening the conversation to talk about women’s health generally and talk about menstrual health support in the workplace and I know Rachel and I will be launching some work around menstrual health and having that wider conversation. I just wondered whether anyone would like to come in on that point?
RS: Helen, do you want to?
CM: Helen and then Rachel, shall we?
AV: I can see both of you looking very keen.
HT: Absolutely and I think it makes total sense and I actually wish that I’d launched a women’s health policy or launched all of it when I launched our menopause policy and it was just the fact that it was coming up to World Menopause Day, I just joined our gender forum and we started that topic. What I would say is launching the topic of menopause in the workplace for us opened up the floor for us to talk about other topics and, very shortly after that, I did a session internally called bloody hell, we’re talking about periods and if I’m really honest, had we not started talking about menopause, I’m not sure the organisation would have been quite ready for that. So, it made sense at the time but, actually, it would have been better to start talking about the whole of the women’s health strategy right from the word go. I was on a webinar earlier with a lady who was talking about, you know, the girl talk in school and the fact that, you know, the journey starts the first day when the boys are sent out to do football and the girls are taken into a classroom to talk about periods and they’re given a packet of Dr Whites or whatever they were back in the day and that’s when that conversation starts and, actually, to not include all the stages, is, I think, a real oversight. So, we probably need to reverse engineer it and include that whole conversation in the workplace. So, that’s what I’m starting to do more broadly now.
CM: Brilliant. Thanks, Helen.
RS: Yeah, couldn’t agree with Helen more and I think we’ve had a similar, sort of, dawning and realisation as well at CIPD and I think the work over the last five years that we’ve been doing on the menopause and others as well, has really helped to raise awareness around the need for this other huge gaping gap which is around support and being able to talk even around menstruation and menstrual health. Another completely natural life issue but we really need to raise momentum and awareness, you know, quite urgently around this and as Claire said, next month we’ll be publishing guidance and more research around that but I’ve already got one finding to flag which just shows how much we do need this work. When I mentioned that 46% now of organisations have got menopause on their health and wellbeing radar, they’ve got a framework, they’ve got something in place. The comparable figure around menstrual health is 17%. So, we’ve got a bit of a mountain to climb -
CM: Hmm, much lower.
RS: - but what we want is exactly what you’ve said, that holistic approach to health and then women’s health as well. Absolutely. So, really glad that came up.
CM: Brilliant. I hate to say that we’re at the end of our session because we could keep on going and we’ve had some excellent questions and thank you so much to our amazing panellists. So, a big thank you to Rachel, to Helen and to Angie and to all of you for tuning in, for watching, for your engagement and your questions. We really do appreciate it. Finally, just to say again, don’t forget the CIPDs wellbeing support for members in the UK and Ireland and the free 24/7 telephone helpline staffed by qualified therapists.
So, thank you to everyone, a really great session and let’s keep building awareness and support within our workplaces around women’s health and around the issues we’ve been talking about, specifically, today, menopause, as well. Thank you very much.
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