Leading Lawyer Highlights The Issues And Some of Dangers For Some Women
Thousands of women suffering from perimenopause and menopause will benefit from the introduction of more flexible working conditions in the future - but according to employment lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, employers must ensure it doesn’t mask some of the problems that many women face.
The advice from the national law firm coincides with National Working From Home Day (14 May) which promotes modern ‘smarter’ working practices such as agile, flexible, remote and mobile working, as well as working from home.
According to a recent survey of HR leaders by Irwin Mitchell, over half of respondents had already consulted with staff over agile working, with 79% saying their working would now be agile, with just 16% remaining workplace based.
Jenny Arrowsmith, an employment partner at Irwin Mitchell who advises employers on the issues relating to menopause in the workplace, said:
Expert Opinion“We are at the start of a revolution in working practices and it’s clear they will present real opportunities for businesses to do more than ever for clients and customers.
“Employers need to consider the best ways to integrate and support staff and the issue of menopause and perimenopause should not be ignored. Employers that side-line menopause as a 'women's issue' will lose out.
“It's clear from the feedback we receive from our clients that there is a huge appetite to support menopausal women in their organisations and retain their skills and experience. There is good reason for this – menopausal symptoms can lead to absence, decline in performance and cause women to leave roles in which they once thrived.
Jenny continues: “Allowing women to make changes to their usual working pattern, including when they work is particularly helpful to women who are suffering with menopausal symptoms including the cognitive impact of brain fog, loss of concentration and sleep deprivation.
“Where they work can be really helpful too, for example, workplace characteristics that make symptoms worse including high temperatures and no access to quiet or restful spaces and a lack of natural light, can sometimes be overcome more easily by working from home.
“Conversely lifestyle changes such as exercise have proven benefits to help with menopausal symptoms also. Being allowed flexibility in their work and necessary workplace adjustments helps to address all these areas.
“Working from home is not however without its challenges and our recent survey highlighted that staff isolation was the biggest concern.
“Unless organisations encourage women to speak up, and support them when they do, working from home may mask some of the problems that women are facing and risk the psychological aspects worsening.
“It’s another reason why, wherever women work, organisations must talk more about the menopause and how it impacts women, so to ensure adequate steps are taken to enable them to continue to thrive in the workplace.”
Jenny Arrowsmith - Partner
Irwin Mitchell has developed a top tips guide to help businesses deal effectively with the issue of menopause
- Develop a strategy. It's helpful to appoint menopause 'champions' who can open up discussions, develop suitable policies and support women. Irwin Mitchell has a precedent menopause policy you can adapt for your organisation, available free of charge.
- Signpost where your staff can find reliable information about the menopause and HRT. Women can download the Balance App which has been developed by Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre. It allows women to track their symptoms, access personalised expert content, share stories and obtain support.
- Consider what changes you can make to support menopausal women. Many organisational changes are free and relatively easy to implement. For example, workplace characteristics that make symptoms worse include: high temperatures, poor ventilation, humidity, no access to quiet or restful spaces, noise, dryness in the atmosphere and a lack of natural light. Think about how you can overcome these by, for example, providing breakout areas that offer quiet places to work in open plan offices, cold water stations and desk fans.
- Support flexible working. Allowing women to make changes to their usual working pattern, including when or where they work is particularly helpful.
- Train your managers so they understand the basics and can make appropriate decisions, and encourage women to speak up where their work is being impacted.
- Accept that all women experience menopause differently. If you take the time to understand how the menopause is affecting individual employees (rather than assuming that all menopausal women have the same needs) you'll stand a much better chance of retaining the experience, knowledge and support your organisation needs.