Schools, colleges and universities are being warned that they will continue to lose skilled workers if they disregard the significance of how menopause symptoms such as joint pain, hot flushes, memory loss, fatigue and anxiety can dramatically affect work performance
The call from employment law firm Irwin Mitchell has followed a menopause survey that concluded six out of 10 organisations in the education sector currently do not have a menopause policy.
The poll of 1,035 HR professionals working across the education sector, commissioned with YouGov, found that only one third (33%) of employers considered menopausal symptoms during performance reviews of their female staff.
This was despite it being widely accepted that the effects of menopause can be debilitating for a woman’s physical and psychological wellbeing.
Symptoms can have a huge impact on a women’s confidence in work, lead to periods of absence and, in some cases, resignations. The survey also found that 62% of the organisations polled did not currently have a menopause policy.
The survey concluded that:
- Almost three quarters (62%) of businesses working in education do not have a menopause policy and 70% do not train their line managers in relation to menopause.
- Almost half (44%) of those that said they did not train their staff about the menopause admitted to not having thought about it, with 15% not considering it a priority. A total of 7% felt sensitivities and embarrassment about the issue held them back.
- More than two thirds of organisations working in the education sector (68%) said they were confident women in their organisation are able to talk about the menopause.
- Yet only 27% said they provided information about the menopause to their employees, with 15% offering internal support groups.
- More than half (55%) said they did not consider menopause during performance reviews for female staff.
According to Irwin Mitchell, this lack of action is compounding the current skills shortage in the sector and it will make it more difficult to attract new employees.
It cited a recent survey by the Association of Colleges that has estimated there are more than 6,000 job vacancies in England’s colleges, the most in more than two decades.
The law firm has also warned a lack of action in relation to menopause could result in businesses facing costly discrimination claims in the future.
Jenny Arrowsmith, an employment law partner at Irwin Mitchell, said: “These are disappointing results and when you consider menopause is an issue affecting the fastest-growing demographic in the UK, namely women aged 50-64, it’s clear businesses must do more.
“It’s about time that menopause is openly discussed as a health and work issue and for employers to demonstrate that they take it seriously. Establishing a menopause policy is a simple and valuable starting point.
“Not only does a menopause policy help to promote positive change within an organisation, it sets a framework for evidencing how the organisation will approach conversations about the menopause, what support affected employees can expect to receive and where they can access additional help. In doing so, it reduces the risk of costly disputes.
“There has been a significant rise in the number of employment tribunals where menopause is mentioned over the last two to three years and, as awareness of this issue grows, we expect to see complaints increase further,” Arrowsmith added.