What exactly is the new menopause policy?

As every woman – and most men  – know, menopause is a natural part of the female aging process. It takes place between 45 and 55 years and can vary from one woman to the next.

It happens as the estrogen levels drop and this has been shown to have a significant impact on many aspects of a woman’s life, one of them being workplace attendance and performance.

Why should we know what the menopause is all about?

Menopause will have an impact on every second person on the earth directly. Indirectly most people will be affected by it in one way or another. With the growing number of ladies in the workforce at the age of 50 and above, menopause is something which will affect performance and attendance levels.

  • Over 3.5 million women over the age of 50 are at work in the UK.
  • The average age in the UK for a woman to go through menopause is 51.
  • Symptoms vary between women and can include physical, cognitive, and psychological symptoms.
  • Symptoms include muscular aches, hot flushes, anxiety, headaches, and poor concentration.
  • Approximately one in 100 women going through the menopause will start before the age of 40.
  • About 25% of women experience symptoms.
  • 25% will have severe symptoms which will impact their daily lives.
  • The symptoms can last for up to 10 years.

There is a great need to support women who are at work during the menopause. A study carried out by The Menopause Hub showed that 30% of women felt that their symptoms had become worse during the pandemic.

Menopause, the workplace, and UK Employment Law

For many years the menopause has been a taboo subject, only talked about in private circles, and never in the workplace with male colleagues. Finally, it is now being discussed in public, and TV debates and commentaries are becoming more frequent. Even parliamentary debates now have the menopause on the agenda.

Employers are also starting to realize that menopause is a part of a woman’s life, and it can – and does – impact her performance in the workplace.

Employers must now ensure that they have correct processes and procedures set in place to address the issue of menopause.

To do this the first point must be for employers to create an environment where, without embarrassment and loss of dignity, female staff may talk openly about menopause.

There is no reason why this should be an issue, seeing as this is a natural phase in a woman’s life, just as coping with aging is a part of life.

The second point is for employers to understand that menopause affects every woman in a different way. Not every woman experiences symptoms which are debilitating, although almost every woman going through the menopause will have some symptoms.

Symptoms can include headaches, hot flushes, sleepless nights (or poor sleep), low moods, lack of concentration and anxiety. Women need to be able to speak openly to a line manager or HR team about handling any problems if they arise.

In the workplace employers have a duty to – as far as reasonably possible – ensure the health and welfare of all staff members. Indeed, in the case of severe symptoms, the menopause may be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

Because of this it is important that employers do not treat women who are going through the menopause less favorably than other employees. They must also ensure that reasonable adjustments are made, and women are not disadvantaged because of menopause/disability.

Reasonable adjustments should include:

  • Flexibility in work arrangements
  • Reallocation of workload
  • Relaxation of dress code
  • Providing a fan

The Menopause Policy sets out the support available to women going through the menopause. It was intended to raise awareness and understanding of the symptoms.

It was also intended to encourage women to discuss their symptoms if they are adversely affecting them in the workplace and their performance is suffering.

Should an employee raise a concern connected to menopause it is sensible to decide if a risk assessment is needed to identify any workplace conditions which might affect the employee.

Government action

Women experiencing the menopause will be better supported because of the government action to cut the cost of repeatable HRT prescriptions.

The new Menopause Taskforce stated that the cost of repeatable HRT (hormone replacement therapy) will be cut. This will save women who rely on HRT hundreds of pounds each year.

This taskforce is to be chaired by Minister for Women’s Health Maria Caulfield and Carolyn Harris MP.

MS Harris said that women would benefit from cheaper and easier access to HRT. This helps to relieve symptoms of menopause.

The government will look at setting in place longer prescribing cycles, thus saving women from frequent prescription charges. The plan is for women to only pay one charge for a 12-month supply of HRT. This would save them around £205 per year.

The government is also looking into combining two hormone treatments into one prescription. This move will affect about 10% of women who require HRT.

Present classification mean that HRT is classed as two medications, namely estrogen and progesterone. This means that women are charged twice for one course of treatment.

MS Caulfield stated that cutting the cost of HRT is a great stride forward. The taskforce will look at the role of education and training, along with workplace policies and support groups for women going through what can be a challenging time, both mentally and physically.

The Civil Service is developing its first workplace menopausal policy. This will ensure that women will be able to continue to work to their full potential.

The new policy is part of an ongoing government commitment to place women’s health at the top of the agenda. This will ensure that the heath and care system work for everyone. It will further enable women to live healthy, fulfilling, and happy lives.


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