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Menopause: new report urges NHS to provide health checks for women

Today (18 October) is World Menopause Day. It's designed to raise awareness of the menopause and to support options to improve the health and well-being of women in mid-life and beyond. It's a campaign we fully support.

The menopause is a natural part of ageing which happens to all women at some point in their lives. But for years it was considered to be taboo; women might have hinted (usually to other women) that they were going through "the change", but there was very little information or support to help them. 

Recently that has started to change, helped by many high-profile celebrities who have spoken openly about the impact the menopause has had on their bodies and careers. This openness is gradually changing attitudes and understanding. Employers are starting to accept that they need to support employees going through the menopause if they want to retain their skills and expertise (something that's high on their agenda given the difficulties many are experiencing trying to recruit skilled staff).

We're also starting to see the national media taking an interest in the menopause. For example, yesterday's Guardian argues that failing to properly support women through the menopause is disastrous for the UK economy (a point we, and others, have been making for years).

Political pressure for change

The impact of the menopause on women's health and employment has also been discussed by MP's. Earlier this year, the Women's and Equality Committee recommended that menopause be added as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act to provide a legal framework to support women. The government has rejected this advice because it believes that the existing protections in respect of age, sex and disability are sufficient to deal with discriminatory treatment linked to the menopause on the basis that some people have brought successful claims. Sadly, that rather misses the point. Because these laws are often a poor fit, women will be put off bringing claims because of the uncertainty of the outcome.  

More recently, the all-party Parliamentary Group on menopause has published a report which concludes that the support available to menopausal women is 'completely inadequate'. It makes the point that obtaining accurate healthcare advice is rather hit and miss; many GP's don't have the expertise they need and some guidance about HRT is 'inaccurate and misleading'. Plus, women may not link symptoms with the menopause.

It recommends that:

  • The NHS must implement a health check for all women at the age of 45 to ensure they are engaged with the health system ahead of or in the early stages of perimenopause, help diagnose menopause at an earlier stage, and make certain that women are better prepared and have the right information and treatment they need to manage the menopause transition. 
  • The Government must co-ordinate and support an employer-led campaign to raise awareness of menopause in the workplace and promote the business case for investing in employee support.
  • The Government must update and promote guidance for employers on best practice menopause at work policies and supporting interventions. 

Although these are sensible suggestions, we don't know if the government will support them. 

What can you do to support menopausal staff in your organisation?

We have some free resources to help you:  

1. Podcast

Here’s a link to our recent podcast which discusses the symptoms of the menopause with leading expert, Dr Rebecca Lewis, Jill Kay a professional woman suffering from menopausal symptoms and our legal expert Jenny Arrowsmith. This explores:  

  • How you can encourage women to talk about the menopause at work
  • What symptoms women experience and what causes them 
  • What treatments are available to alleviate symptoms 
  • Why it’s important for businesses to have a menopause policy or menopause strategies in place
  • What employers should do to support female employees at work. 

2. Menopause guide

We also have a free menopause guide for employees which answers a number of frequently asked questions on this topic and an employer guide which provides a free menopause policy. 

3. Quiz

Our 1 minute quiz has been particularly popular and aims to dispel myths about the menopause and peri-menopause.

4. Survey results  

We also commissioned a survey from YouGov to find out how many employers support peri-menopausal and menopausal women in their organisations. The results are summarised in this report which indicates that many employers are still aren't doing enough to support and retain staff during this time. 

We can help

Our partner, Jenny Arrowsmith regularly helps organisations support menopausal women and is an expert in this area. Please get in touch if you'd like details of the training she can offer or need specific advice on this issue.

We have also added a new training programme on the menopause as part of our popular 'back to basics' training modules. It will help line manager understand the legal issues and feel more comfortable having conversations about the menopause. 

Please get in touch with Jenny Arrowsmith if you'd like further information.

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