Menopause Policy: Why Change in the Workplace Matters

Companies are increasingly under pressure to provide support for menopausal staff.

4 Minute ReadEducation by Jennifer Howze

03.05.22

We’ve come a long way since Sigmund Freud cited as a “well-known fact” that after menopause women become “quarrelsome, vexatious and overbearing." Now, experts point out, that it’s important we don’t slip into a disaster narrative, overly medicalising menopause or making women’s midlife health only about menopause.

“Women want the information they need to get the right treatment and access HRT and all the stuff that makes menopause better,” says Eleanor Mills, founder of Noon and former Sunday Times Editorial Director. “You don’t say to men, ‘Oh you’re in the Viagra zone’,” she says. “We don’t want to be told all the time that we’re menopausal.

“The point is we want that information and treatment so we can get on with living fantastic lives in our 50s and beyond.”

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The Feel Good Menopause Campaign

While menopause affects more than half the population – an estimated 13 million women – traditionally its symptoms, effects and treatment have been little talked about and not well understood by families, businesses, government and even doctors themselves. There are also more acute issues at play as well: there is currently a national shortage of HRT, which is affecting the estimated million people who take it.

The LYMA Feel Good Menopause Campaign, launched last year with the site Noon, aimed to tackle outdated ideas about the condition, illuminate what it’s like for women today and encourage companies to develop menopause policies.

In the Feel Good Menopause survey, 83% of women said there wasn’t good enough information available, echoing a report by The British Menopause Society which showed that women struggle to access appropriate advice and help.

“People are waking up to the fact that we have to find a better way of supporting women through the menopause,” Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea East, told the Guardian in late 2021. Harris, an advocate for menopause reform, is co-chair of the UK Menopause Task Force, which aims to break down taboos and ensure better access to treatment and support.

Menopause policy at work

LYMA’s Feel Good Menopause survey revealed another astonishing fact: 93% of women say their workplace has no menopause policy. Menopause costs the UK economy 14 million working days per year, according to HR Review. Even doctors going through menopause cite lack of support at work, resulting in some leaving medical practice. This needs to change.

It’s an important issue: While the NHS simply defines menopause as when a woman stops having periods and can no longer conceive naturally, the experience can last for several years. It may include a whole host of symptoms including night sweats, hot flushes, low moods, anxiety, vaginal dryness or thinning, concentration problems, lowered libido and more. There’s growing awareness of how menopause can affect women’s health and wellbeing in work and leisure life; as an example, an article in Horse & Hound magazine highlighted how it can change women’s riding habits because of weight gain, mood swings and physical pain.

LYMA’s campaign, along with a host of other pressure groups, advocates and hard work by MPs, has raised awareness. Now the government, and an array of companies, have finally begun to respond.

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Company menopause policies

A cornerstone of this reform is getting businesses to acknowledge the very real challenges some employees experience as a result of menopause, treating the condition and treatments seriously. Timpson was an early responder, announcing in October 2021 employee coverage of HRT. Boots pledged it too will be fighting the taboo around menopause, providing more support for employees and covering HRT costs.

Diageo’s policy includes counselling and job flexibility; Channel 4’s features counselling, a quiet/cool room and flexible working; Vodafone’s involves a rollout of training and awareness programmes. LYMA offers its symptom-busting Supplement free, resource for people who need changes to office temperature, flexible working to accommodate symptoms and medical appointments, and private spaces for rest and the changing of clothes.

Other companies are proving their commitment by working with an initiative called GenM. GenM supports development of menopause policy and awareness, working with 31 companies, including M&S, Holland & Barrett, Royal Mail, Next and Bravissimo, among others.

Government menopause policy

The government has responded by announcing that one form of HRT will be made available over the counter and a year’s supply of HRT will be available in 2023 with a single prescription fee. The demand for HRT has doubled over the past five years. Unfortunately the UK is coping with HRT shortages, fuelling fears that women will have to seek out “black market” alternatives.

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Menopause: beyond HRT

Ultimately, though, discussions around menopause and the workplace go beyond HRT. Effective menopause policy helps chip away at menopause and age discrimination, offensive comments such as belittling “hot flushes” jokes, missed pay or promotions and lack of support for what is – at base – a healthcare issue.

“I can’t emphasise how important recognition and respect for the menopause is,” Harris told Sky News on 25 April 2022. “Women are not to be put on the scrapheap when they reach that time in their life when they are hormone deficient.”

It’s an approach to which LYMA is committed. LYMA are continually investigating and supporting the wellbeing of women through our innovative approach using science, nature and technology. Whether you’re taking HRT or not, and whether you’re able to access it or not, LYMA’s Supplement has been found by many women going through menopause to be an effective assistant in balancing out mood, improving sleep, and increasing energy levels.

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