Employers failing to address menopause in the workplace

Many of the UK’s 2.5 million working women in their 50s, who are going through the menopause, are in jobs that could be making their symptoms worse, according to a study by the TUC.

The majority of employers are also ignoring the issue, the Working Through the Change survey concluded.

The study of 500 workplace health and safety representatives found that only one in five employers provided information about the menopause, and only 2 per cent of respondents said health and safety policies covered menopause-related issues.

Other criticisms included managers not recognising problems associated with the menopause – cited by 45 per cent of those polled – and 31 per cent reported management criticism of menopause-related sick leave.

More than a third cited embarrassment or difficulties in discussing the menopause with their employers, and one in five spoke of criticism, ridicule and even harassment from their managers when the subject was broached.

Respondents said the symptoms of menopause most likely to be made worse by work were hot flushes (53 per cent), headaches (46 per cent), tiredness and a lack of energy (45 per cent).

TUC general secretary-elect Brendan Barber said: “The health of women in later years depends very much on the state of their health when they are working through the meno-pause, and employers are not doing enough to protect them.”

The study recommended that employers should provide cold drinking water, adjustable temperature and humidity controls, encourage flexible working and reduce long hours, and avoid penalising staff for taking frequent toilet breaks.

It also suggested managers should avoid negative and discriminatory attitudes and should provide appropriate information and training to their managers.

Other recommendations included developing policies on the menopause to cover sickness absence, paid leave for treatment, occupational health screening, flexible working patterns and rest breaks.

The TUC has also urged the Health and Safety Commission to produce guidance for employers and staff on the issue.

www.tuc.org.uk/ menopause

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