Supportive workplaces needed to help menopausal women

15 October 2021

In response to a Government inquiry into the menopause and the workplace, and in advance of World Menopause Day, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is urging employers to develop more inclusive and supportive workplace cultures and managerial styles.

The inquiry was launched after a survey found that three in five menopausal women were negatively affected at work by their symptoms, with nearly 900,000 women in the UK leaving their jobs over an undefined amount of time because of it.

The theme for World Menopause Day 2021, taking place on 18 October, is Bone Health: see for more details.

While there are examples of good practice in some workplaces, IOSH believes a concerted effort is required to support women to ensure they not only remain in their jobs but are able to flourish.

Dr Karen Michell, an occupational health specialist at IOSH, said: “Menopause can and often does have physical, mental and emotional effects on women and their ability to cope with work. Yet very few workplaces and managers are knowledgeable on how to address work-related menopause issues and the preventive role that occupational health and safety can play”.

IOSH recommendations

The Institution, which represents more than 47,000 health and safety professionals around the world, recommends a number of measures, which include:

  • considering whether existing policies and procedures cater for the psychosocial needs of menopause-related issues, for example whether they can introduce flexible working patterns

  • ensuring risk assessments consider specific risks to menopausal women and identify reasonable adjustments for individuals

  • developing awareness, training and education strategies that raise understanding of the menopause and associated symptoms, their impact on work and potential solutions

  • following the advice of health and safety professionals based on the outcomes of age and gender-sensitive health risk assessments, including potential changes in functional capacities

  • developing more inclusive and supportive workplace cultures and managerial styles that make women feel comfortable disclosing symptoms or requesting adjustments to support them with symptoms.

Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula

Employment tribunal judgments have already indicated that the symptoms of the menopause can be classed as a disability because they were able, in some cases, to meet the definition of disability in the Equality Act including having a long-term substantial adverse effect on those experiencing it.

This means that employers already need to be taking the menopause seriously to ensure they don’t treat women less favourably because of it, fail to make reasonable adjustments or subject an employee discrimination arising from a disability, etc.

These IOSH recommendations bring further focus on the need to pay attention to the menopause which will affect almost every woman in the UK.