As awareness increases of the impact of gender-specific health issues on the workforce, more and more employers are implementing a workplace menopause policy. What should HR professionals consider when writing a menopause policy, how should it be structured and what can it contain?
1. Set out scope of menopause policy
More menopause resources
Podcast: Creating menopause inclusive workplacerelx_copyright – This article is XpertHR.co.uk content (c) LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group
The employer can begin their menopause policy by explaining why it is important for individuals experiencing menopausal symptoms to be supported. This could include encouraging:
- staff to feel comfortable speaking about how menopause-related symptoms may be affecting them at work; and
- line managers to offer support where they can to individuals experiencing adverse menopausal symptoms.
Ideally, this support should be made available to anyone working for the employer, whether that is employees, workers, contractors, volunteers, interns and apprentices.
2. Explain symptoms of menopause
The menopause policy can explain when the menopause normally occurs (between the ages of 45 and 55) and how long it typically lasts (from four to eight years).
To help the workforce to understand what impact the menopause can have on an individual, it is a good idea to set out possible symptoms, which include:
- hot flushes;
- reduced concentration; and
- heavy periods.
3. Provide route to ask for menopause support
The menopause policy should set out what an individual should do if they are finding it difficult to cope at work because of menopausal symptoms.
Typically, the first recommended step should be for the individual to speak to their line manager or, if they are not comfortable doing this, contacting occupational health or the HR department.
Some employers will adopt a tailored adjustments plan for menopausal symptoms where individuals can, if they wish, keep a record of any adjustments agreed to support them.
4. Provide flexible working options
Menopause case law
In Reilly v RT Management Bridgeton Ltd, an employment tribunal held that a line manager’s failure to address an employee’s request to have a sanitary waste disposal bin placed in the staff toilet because she was “the only female of menstruating age who used the toilet” constituted sex discrimination.
The menopause policy can remind staff that eligible employees can request flexible working via the employer’s separate flexible working requests policy.
However, a good employer will also give individuals affected by menopausal symptoms the option to work flexibly on a temporary (rather than permanent) basis.
For example, this could include temporarily working from home, changing start and finish times, or taking more frequent breaks.
5. Highlight other practical adjustments
The menopause policy can highlight the range of practical steps that the employer takes to support staff experiencing menopausal symptoms. These include:
- alterations to the working environment, such as moving the individual’s workstation to a cooler area or providing them with a fan;
- adjustments to the employer’s dress code;
- provision for a quiet place to work or relax; and
- providing sanitary products in toilet and shower facilities.
6. Remind staff of sickness absence procedure
The menopause policy ought to make clear that there is no expectation for individuals to work if they are unwell because of menopausal symptoms.
Staff should be reminded that, if they are unable to work because they are ill, they should follow the procedure set out in the employer’s short-term sickness absence policy.
7. Flag up internal and external assistance available
Already implemented a menopause policy in your workplace? Consider following this up with the introduction of a menstruation (period) policy to explain the support available to staff affected by menstrual symptoms.
The menopause policy can conclude by highlighting the internal and external help and support that is available.
For instance, internal support might be available through the employer’s employee assistance programme (EAP).
External sources of help include: