Supporting Women Struggling with Menopause at Work

Menopause is something that affects all women, and with 51% of the UK population being female, this means that millions of people go through menopause every year. Despite these numbers, menopause is largely misunderstood, with misconceptions and stereotypes doing particular harm to women struggling with menopause at work.

Supporting these women is absolutely essential. While the upcoming International Women’s Day can be the perfect time to highlight gender-based inequality, supporting women struggling with menopause at work should be a continued effort and should inform how you implement workplace guidelines and policy. Let’s find out more.

What is menopause?

Menopause usually affects women between the ages of 45 and 55, but onset can be earlier in certain circumstances. Menopause is officially diagnosed when menstrual cycles have stopped for a period of at least 12 months, but symptoms can affect women before this, a stage known as perimenopause.

Menopause can cause a number of different symptoms, both psychological and physiological, and it affects every woman differently. Common physical symptoms include hot flushes, aches and pains, sleep disturbances, and headaches, while symptoms can also manifest mentally with mood swings, anxiety, as well as concentration and memory problems.

It can also lead to long-term health complications, increasing the risk of things like heart disease and osteoporosis.

There are widespread misconceptions about menopause, with many people assuming it is symptomless or otherwise inconsequential. In reality, it can seriously impact quality of life, and can have a significantly detrimental effect on women going through menopause at work.

How can menopause at work affect staff?

As menopause largely affects women of working age, it’s something that all employers must be aware of.

According to a study by CIPD, 59% of women aged between 45 and 55 reported that going through menopause at work had significantly impacted their performance. Of those experiencing negative effects, 65% reported difficulty concentrating, 58% experienced higher levels of stress, and 52% reported greater difficulty interacting with clients and colleagues.

What’s more, of those who reported having to take a sick day because of menopause symptoms, just 25% said they felt comfortable enough to explain the real reason behind their absence.  

There are treatments for the menopause, such as HRT, but these are often difficult to access, an issue highlighted in a recent podcast with Dr Louise Newson and Davina McCall. This is indicative of an enduring sense of taboo and shame surrounding what is a completely natural process, which results in many women choosing to suffer in silence.

What does the law say?

Under the terms of the Equality Act 2010, the menopause isn’t a protected characteristic. This means that, technically speaking, women could face discrimination based on the fact they are going through menopause at work.

A proposal to amend the act was shot down by MPs, who cited fears it could lead to discrimination against men.

However, public opinion seems to support improved protections for menopausal women. A YouGov study revealed that six in ten people believe that it should be illegal to discriminate against women with menopause in work, while 55% supported paid menopausal leave.

As an employer, the fact that there are no specific laws regarding your treatment of menopausal women means you will have to take matters into your own hands and implement policies to support women struggling with menopause at work.

How can you support women struggling with menopause at work?

Women struggling with menopause at work can see their productivity and performance negatively affected, which can harm their mental and emotional wellbeing and be a detriment to your business.

As an employer, it is your responsibility to support your staff as best you can, it is essential you take steps to address any issues they may have.

The most important factors to keep in mind when supporting women going through menopause at work are sensitivity and confidentiality. Any medical issue is a private matter, and the menopause carries particular social stigmas which makes it even more vital that you approach things in a sensitive manner.

Take steps to make any necessary workplace adjustments to help the women in your team. This could include things like fans and air conditioning systems to help with hot flushes and temperature sensitivity.

Be flexible and understanding. Women struggling with the menopause at work may have to take sick days, and they may require time off to attend doctors’ appointments. Adopting hybrid working practices and implementing a work-from-home scheme can be an effective strategy and will reduce the pressure felt by your staff.

Communication is key. Speak to the women on your team. If you foster an open and honest working environment your staff will be more willing to share their issues with you, from which you can take action to support them as best you can.


Menopause has long been shrouded in secrecy. Use the upcoming International Women’s Day to review your workplace policies and ensure you are doing your utmost to help women struggling with menopause at work.

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