NHS England has published new national menopause guidance, which recommends that health workers could be offered flexible working and occupational health support to help them manage their symptoms.
Launching the guidance, chief executive Amanda Pritchard said many employees were “silently suffering” with their menopause symptoms and were either too embarrassed to broach the subject with their managers, or experienced a “lack of support” when they did.
Writing in the Telegraph, Pritchard urged other employers to adopt similar menopause-friendly practices, which could include offering staff menopause training, lighter uniforms, fans and menopause support groups.
She said: “Our guidance has been intentionally designed to be transferable to other workplaces too, so I hope organisations and women beyond the NHS can also benefit.
“The NHS is the biggest employer of women in the country – 1 million work for the NHS and up to 260,000 could be approaching or going through menopause, and for many, this can be a difficult transition.
“Menopause is not a health condition, it’s a stage of life, and I want all women facing this transition in the NHS to have access to the right support to stay in and thrive at work.”
Recent research found that almost two-thirds of men across various sectors admitted they did not know what to do if menopause or perimenopause symptoms were affecting a colleague’s ability to do their job.
The NHS menopause guidance suggests that line managers should:
- reassure employees that they can ask for menopause support
- increase their knowledge and awareness of symptoms
- form links with occupational health and employee assistance programmes to understand how they can support staff
- share details of the menopause support available
- encourage attendance at menopause support groups and peer networks
- have health and wellbeing conversations with staff to consider whether any reasonable adjustments are needed
- consider offering flexible working
NHS employers should consider whether uniforms in breathable fabrics are available and whether temperatures can be adjusted or desk fans provided for those who need them, the guidance says.
It reiterates the importance of recognising that transgender, non-binary or intersex staff often face difficulties in asking for menopause support, and says that managers should allow these staff to take the lead in these conversations.
There is also new guidance around how menopause-related absence should be recorded in NHS electronic records.