Menopause in the Workplace
We need to talk about the M word…..
Menopause is the time in most women’s lives when menstrual periods stop permanently and they are no longer able to bear children. Menopause is usually a natural change. Generally it occurs between 49 and 52 years of age. Many women of this age are active in the workforce and the symptoms of menopause can interfere with a woman’s ability to work.
Before menopause, a woman’s periods typically become irregular meaning periods may be longer or shorter in duration or be lighter or heavier in the amount of flow. It can be very uncomfortable because during this time women often experience hot flashes that last from 30 seconds to ten minutes and may be associated with shivering, sweating, and reddening of the skin. Sleep disturbances, headaches and fatigue are some of the other symptoms.
Anxiety is another condition often expressed during menopause. For many women, menopause causes a great deal of stress and being at work can make it worse. Heavy workloads, inflexible hours and lack of sick days can make it difficult to relax and deal with the stress caused by menopause. The physical symptoms of menopause pose major and embarrassing problems for some women, leaving them feeling less confident and at odds with their desired professional image.
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Women comprise approximately half (47 percent) of the UK’s workforce. About 3.5 million are women aged 50 and over and so this matter should be handled appropriately. The following strategies can help to cope with problematic menopausal symptoms at workplace.
- Try to make adjustments to work environment. Have control on the temperature of the work environment and set up accordingly when possible (e.g. the placement of a fan at the work desk or having desk beside opening windows).
- Make adjustments to work routines (e.g. changing working hours, taking breaks, taking days off, not working voluntary overtime and adopting flexible working practices).
- Grow awareness of how the menopause can affect work and what adjustments may be necessary to support women who are experiencing the menopause. Open dialogue in the workplace can help alleviate misconceptions and allow for greater harmony in the workplace.
- Risk assessments should be made which will consider the specific needs of menopausal women and ensure that the working environment will not make their symptoms worse. The assessments should also address welfare issues such as toilet facilities and access to cold water.
Women experience the menopause in widely varying ways. The cultural context within which a woman lives can have a significant impact on the way she experiences the menopausal transition. You should bear in mind that your health is your responsibility and that you are in charge. This is a time when your body deserves extra attention and you should be conscious about that. However, it’s a matter of hope that there is increasing awareness of the menopause as a possible occupational health issue and many organizations and trades unions are beginning to produce guidance for employers.
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