MENOPAUSE: A SHOW OF SUPPORT
Are we denying women by not making menopause policy legislative?
Anne McGale, Nurse and founder of Menopause Wellbeing NI, investigates.
The menopause is something that all women experience. Some may
experience the symptoms worse than others, or for longer than
others. But we all experience it at one point in our lives.
As it stands in Northern Ireland, there are no legislative
provisions that assist women who are experiencing the menopause
and the effect that it has on them in their lives and, most importantly,
in the workplace.
80 per cent of women are now in the workplace, however it
is estimated that 900,000 women in the UK have left jobs as a
result of menopausal symptoms. Research has shown that there
is an increased amount of women who, when experiencing the
per-menopause phase, leave their jobs, will forfeit promotion
opportunities, or will reduce their hours to part-time.
The menopause occurs from the age of 45-to-55, usually with an
average of 51 years. Women now live well into their 80s which can
mean 30 years of life post-menopause. This also means that there will
be many years women will spend in the workplace post-menopause.
For this reason, it is vital that we educate employees and
employers about the menopause and the impact it can have on our
lives and the lives of those around us.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF THE MENOPAUSE?
There are at least 34 known symptoms of the menopause. 80 per cent
of all those who experience the menopause will experience some
symptoms and 25 per cent will have symptoms severe enough that it
will impact on their normal day-to-day.
The symptoms can be physical and psychological. The impact
of the symptoms affects not only the individual experiencing the
menopause, but also those who we live and work with.
WHERE DOES NORTHERN IRELAND STAND WITH
REGARDS TO THE MENOPAUSE REGULATION
Unfortunately, there are no policies in place
here in Northern Ireland which relate to the
menopause in the workplace. However, there
is definitely more of a push towards trying
to understand and cater for those who are
The Equality Commission brought out
guidance in the last number of years which
was targeted at employers to inform them
of the menopause and the impact it could
have on their workforce. The issue with this
guidance, is it is not enforceable. Employers
still have the ability to ignore this guidance
and continue without taking it on-board.
There are, however, employers who
do take this guidance on-board and have
shown the benefits that have come from
implementing menopause policies in the
workplace. When employers show interest
in their employees’ lives, it builds loyalty
within the workforce. There is so much now
in the workplace about looking after our
physical and mental health – we need this to
continue to expand and include the likes of
MPS and MLAs on the Women and
Equalities Committee are looking at the law
and how the menopause should be protected
in the law, just as pregnancy is.
A report called the ‘Trial of Menopause’
stated that a total of 23 employment tribunals
in the UK cited the menopause in 2021,
a 44 per cent increase on the 2020 figures
according to analysis of court records. This
shows that there is growing awareness of the
menopause in general.
However, should there be an enforced policy upon employers with regards to the
menopause, we would hopefully not see
any employment tribunals as a result of the
menopause in the workplace.
WHAT COULD A
MENOPAUSE POLICY IN
THE WORKPLACE LOOK
A menopause policy could include training
for employees and employers in order to
help them understand how the menopause
affects the individual and how others can
look out for certain symptoms. As well as
this, a policy could provide the opportunity
for there to be more conversation around
the menopause, removing the stigma that
is attached to it.
Some other elements could
• A risk assessment of the workplace
• Heating and ventilation considerations
• Menopausal sickness to be a separate ‘sick
leave’ than usual sick leave
• Performance assessment taking into
consideration the age of women and
therefore the possibility they may be
experiencing the menopause and this could
be impacting their work
• Access to sanitary facilities
• Uniforms that do not exacerbate body
• Flexible working / working from home
opportunities to be considered
There are plenty of other considerations
that could make up part of a policy on
the menopause. It is something that other
countries have already got in action and we
can learn from these countries.
WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO TO ASSIST THOSE
EXPERIENCING THE MENOPAUSE?
There is no doubt, employers and managers
play an important role to ensure that anyone
experiencing menopause symptoms get the
same support and understanding as if they
had any other health condition.
Employers have a legal responsibility to
support employees in the work environment
and not exacerbate existing symptoms under
the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This
should extend to menopause symptoms.
If managers and employers have an
understanding of the menopause, then this
will promote an educated and comfortable
workforce where conversation can occur.
Simple changes can make someone’s
role and work environment supportive and
relaxing, so that the menopause does not
become a barrier to the individual or to their
It would be incredibly beneficial to
all individuals in the work environment
to develop a policy and furnish it with
legislative guidance. This would retain skilled
staff, improve employee morale and improve
Let’s all embrace this change in the
workplace and make the work environment
become equal for all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anne McGale, founder of Menopause
Wellbeing NI, is a nurse and holistic
freelance educator who runs workshops on
the menopause in the work environment
for employers and employees for the last
five year. Anne is passionate about everyone
talking about the menopause and women
being prepared before they start to develop
Published in Northern Ireland Healthcare Review, November 2022