New guidance has been published today advising employers how they can help women who feel criticised for taking menopause-related sick leave and are embarrassed about discussing the issue.
The TUC has released the guidance to coincide with International Women's Day and says that more must be done for women during the menopause, which affects 3.5 million women over the age of 50 in work.
"Supporting women through the menopause" is drawn from the experience of union health and safety representatives and new research published by the British Occupational Health Research Foundation in conjunction with the University of Nottingham. It suggests that employers need to recognise that women of menopausal age may need extra consideration, as changes during the menopause can affect how a woman does her work and her relationship with her manager and colleagues.
Menopausal women can experience hot flushes, headaches, tiredness, sweating, anxiety attacks and an increase in stress levels. High workplace temperatures, poor ventilation, poor or non-existent rest or toilet facilities, or a lack of access to cold drinking water at work can make all of these symptoms worse, says the TUC.
Female staff told the TUC that their managers did not recognise problems associated with the menopause, and pointed to being criticised for menopause-related sick leave, embarrassment at discussing the menopause with their employers, and being criticised or ridiculed by their managers on the subject.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Despite the increasingly large number of older women in employment, the menopause is rarely seen as a workplace issue. There is no excuse for the silence, embarrassment, confusion and inaction around the menopause - something which all women go through.
"The health of women in later years depends very much on their health when they are working through the menopause, and this report shows employers and unions can work together to do much more to protect them."
See XpertHR's good practice guide on sickness absence management.
XpertHR also has a wealth of information on sex discrimination.