22nd November 2019
In September this year, Dawn Butler of the Labour Party described their plan to implement a new policy should they win the upcoming election; mandatory workplace menopause policies. In the current political climate, this idea is likely to cause some controversy, but should businesses be doing more to cater for employees going through menopause? Explore The Labour Party’s plans, understand the situation as it stands, and consider ways in which to support female staff during this time of life.
What is the Labour Party’s menopause policy?
In her speech, Dawn outlined Labour’s plans for what they will demand of all companies with more than 250 employees. They must have menopause policies which allow for the following;
- Flexible absence procedures that recognise that the menopause is a long-term, fluctuating health condition
- Proper training for all line managers, educating them about how menopause can affect women, and the ways in which they can provide support
- Flexibility in company policies ensuring that the needs of menopausal employees are catered for
- Regular risk assessments designed to ensure that the working environment will not worsen any menopause symptoms
According to The Labour Party website, suggested implementations for supporting women going though the menopause while working could be;
- Offering flexible working hours to women whose sleep pattern is disrupted
- Improving access to cold water
- Installing ventilation facilities
What is the current climate like for time off work during menopause?
In order to understand why The Labour Party has laid out these plans, it’s important to acknowledge the current situation for female employees who are facing the menopause.
Research carried out in 2018 by Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) reveals that more than half of the 1,800 women they questioned felt unable to approach their managers about menopausal symptoms. The same research showed that just over one fifth of the 1,800 women had taken time off because of problems related to menopause.
Considering the fact that about half of the UK population will (if they haven’t already) one day experience menopause, it stands to reason that companies need to think about how to support women’s needs during this time.
How can companies implement a menopause policy?
Regardless of who wins the election, forward-thinking companies should be considering how they can support employees going through the menopause. Aspects to think about include;
- Creating an understanding and approachable culture
As the aforementioned research shows, a huge proportion of women feel unable to approach management about their struggles with menopause symptoms. It’s important to encourage staff to speak up in times of need, and feel valued by their managers. Try holding regular one-to-ones in which employees are invited to talk about personal issues as well as workplace problems. This is likely to hugely improve relationships and therefore loyalty and even productivity.
- Educate management about the implications of menopause
By training management staff about the ways in which women can be affected by menopause, they will be better equipped to solve problems at work when needed. A good understanding of menopausal symptoms is also likely to bring about a proactive approach among managers, as well as empathy and compassion for women who are facing problems at this time.
- Encourage all staff to take regular breaks
Look after the wellbeing of your staff by encouraging them to take regular breaks. Regular breaks are proven to boost productivity among all employees, but they can be particularly beneficial for menopausal women. During breaks women struggling with menopause symptoms are able to go outside for fresh air to cool down, get a cold drink, or feel refreshed should they be tackling tiredness and/or headaches.
- Offer more flexibility in the workplace
With education and awareness, the management team is likely to become more accommodating to the needs of menopausal women. This could pertain to working hours for women struggling with sleeping, the option to work from home at times, and their work environment. For example, menopausal women may prefer to sit close to an air conditioning unit, and far away from a radiator.
- Be prepared for women to take time off for menopause
An understanding management team should be in a good position to enable women struggling with menopause to take time off work. By encouraging an open and trusting relationship, women should feel happy to communicate their situation. This, in turn, can help you to prepare for the possibility that they might needs some days off, enabling them to do so without worrying about causing any disruption to the business.
Concerns about women in the workplace are likely to continue to be a prevalent subject among society in the coming years, and particularly during the current election campaign. Everything from the gender pay gap to discrimination against new or expectant mothers is likely to be under close scrutiny, so businesses would do well to create a strong HR team that can focus on these matters. Opting to use cloud-based self-service HR management software can compliment this, allowing employees to access relevant policies at home or work, request and record time off, and allow managers to streamline HR administration, freeing up time to concentrate on personnel concerns.