by Moira Grassick, COO at Peninsula Ireland
Menopause is a natural part of the female life cycle. It begins when oestrogen levels decline and periods end.
Menopause symptoms typically affect women aged between their late 30s to late 50s and can seriously affect their life. In Ireland, the average age a woman reaches menopause is 51. The length of menopause also varies. Symptoms usually last about four years, but around one in 10 women experience them for up to 12 years.
When it comes to work, it’s important that you support your female employers during this time. One way you can do that from the outset is to put a workplace menopause policy in place.
Who is affected?
It’s estimated that over 80% of women experience menopause-related symptoms in their lifetime. This includes people in the trans community. A transgender man (those who identify as male but were assigned female at birth) or an AFAB non-binary person (who do not identify as a particular gender but were assigned female at birth) will experience natural menopause if their ovaries remain in place and they aren’t given hormone therapy.
A transgender woman (those who identify as female but were assigned male at birth) might also experience menopausal symptoms as a result of hormone therapy.
What are the symptoms and signs of menopause?
The most common menopause-related symptoms include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Difficulty sleeping
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Joint stiffness and pain
Menopause in the workplace
Of course, the attendance and productivity of an employee experiencing the symptoms of menopause could be impacted. This is only natural.
In Ireland, one in 10 women leave work solely because of menopausal symptoms. Upwards of 90% of women say they have no support available at work. Women leaving their roles affects workplace productivity, the gender pay gap, and the gender pension gap.
This is not right, but there is something you can do about it.
Creating your workplace menopause policy
Every business should have a menopause policy in place. If you don’t currently have one, here are some key aims and objectives to consider when creating yours.
Employers, managers, and employees all have responsibilities when it comes to the menopause policy and ensuring its effectiveness. These include:
- Understanding menopause and its related issues and how these can affect colleagues.
- Raising awareness within the business and creating a culture of understanding and support.
- Ensuring a consistent approach to managing employees who are struggling with menopausal symptoms.
- Doing what they can to reduce menopause-related sickness absence while also promoting the retention of menopausal employees.
- Encouraging a workplace environment where staff can openly and comfortably discuss menopause.
Once your policy is in place and your aims outlined, consider the following objectives:
- That your policy provides a clear definition of what menopause is, its stages, when it occurs, what happens, the potential impact on performance, and the responsibilities of staff.
- How your business intends to support employees going through menopause.
Progress being made
The Irish Government has committed to establishing dedicated specialist menopause clinics across the country. Encouraged by the Women’s Health Taskforce, which was established to improve the standard of women’s healthcare, the first clinic is due to open this year at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin.