We need to talk about money and menopause

Kathy Abernethy

Kathy Abernethy

The menopause taboo is holding back businesses.

As a society, we’ve become better at understanding how our bodies affect our work.

There’s a growing recognition of the role our physical and emotional state plays in our ability to perform, and employers are realising that getting the best from their teams means giving more comprehensive support to individuals.

Mental health assistance has increasingly become part of corporate infrastructure and companies around the world are beginning to follow Japan’s lead, albeit 60 years later, and grant paid period leave to their employees.

Yet some areas of health are still shrouded in taboo.

Take, for example, menopause. It’s a physical experience affecting millions of people, around the world.

The vast majority will have symptoms: in the UK, 85 per cent of women of menopausal age will experience symptoms.

And these symptoms encompass more than the often-dismissively quoted ‘hot flushes’, ranging from joint pain and heart palpitations to brain fog, anxiety and difficulty concentrating.

It’s impossible for these symptoms not to have an impact on work. The statistics back this up: research has found that 63 per cent of people experiencing menopause say their symptoms have negatively impacted their work, and one in four have considered leaving their job due to symptoms.

But, despite this, only 19 per cent of businesses currently say they have a menopause policy in place.

The lack of visible, practical support from management encourages a culture of silence where just over a fifth (22 per cent) of employees have been able to speak about menopause at work. The result? Unfulfilled employee potential, stunted careers, reduced team wellbeing and talent loss.

Turning the tide

The good news is that leaders are beginning to recognise there’s a problem. Recent research commissioned by Peppy in conjunction with World Menopause Day found that over half (54 per cent) of leaders believe that people suffering menopause symptoms are likely to be discriminated against.

Although C-level executives are least likely to talk about menopause at work, 72% want to know if a colleague is experiencing menopause so they can provide support. 

So, how can leaders end the silence around menopause and stop their employees suffering because of it?

The first step is writing menopause and perimenopause support into your business plan and being prepared to commit time, money and resources towards it.

This is an ethical decision but it’s also one that gives return on investment: we found that 61 per cent of workers would be more likely to change jobs for an employer who offers support around menopause.

Then it’s a case of working out what that support looks like. While leaders are keen to connect directly with their teams on the health issues that impact them, the reality is that many employees don’t feel comfortable in doing so.