Originally featured in the Yorkshire Post on World Menopause Day.
A staggering 1 in 10 of those who worked during their menopause have left a job because of the symptoms, according to the 2022 ‘Menopause and the workplace‘ study carried out by the Fawcett Society.
As a director of a law firm which is bucking the trend in the profession with more women than men in the business and in leadership positions, this is of great concern. Both for the health and wellbeing of individuals affected and for the risk of potential loss of talent from our business and the legal profession, due to menopause symptoms.
We’ve seen a recent shift towards having more conversations about the menopause, thanks to work by charities and high-profile figures sharing their research and experiences in the media. Yet it is not entirely the case that the menopause is talked about in the workplace. In fact, the UK Parliament’s ‘menopause and the workplace survey 21-22’ highlighted that despite most of its sample reporting some impact on how they felt at work, less than a third of respondents told anyone at work.
So, how can we as employers best support those who are experiencing the symptoms of menopause? There just isn’t one size fits all as each business is different from another. However, I believe it starts with company culture – it’s about openness, willingness to listen and learn, flexibility and approachability for staff. Fostering and harnessing a culture that empowers individuals to talk about the menopause is crucial.
Promoting open conversations about the menopause should extend to all employees so everyone has a basic understanding of the menopause and how it can affect colleagues. We don’t all need to be menopause experts. Simply having an understanding and a willingness to listen to employees and learn about their experiences of menopause can be hugely beneficial. There are a lot of readily available resources about menopause in the workplace that can help inform those conversations.
There are also simple practical adjustments that employers can make to help improve a working environment or create a more suitable working pattern for those who are experiencing menopausal symptoms. These may include flexible working, better temperature control, better support with emotional wellbeing, perhaps changing certain duties in roles or allowing breaks when needed.
Our profession, along with many other professions, would benefit greatly from taking health issues such as the menopause more seriously. Ultimately, we want our employees to be happy in their place of work and we want to retain our most experienced and talented employees – and not contribute to the 1 in 10 statistic. With more women than ever entering the legal profession, we have a responsibility to support them through every stage of their career and not risk losing them as they progress in their chosen career. Let’s work on a culture of openness and start the conversations.