Lawyers Issue Wake-Up Call About The Risks Of Losing Experienced Employees As Women Are Forced To Leave Their Job
British businesses will continue to lose skilled workers if they continue to disregard the significance of how menopause symptoms such as joint pain, hot flushes, memory loss, fatigue and anxiety, can dramatically impact performance in the workplace.
The urgent wake-up call from employment law specialists at Irwin Mitchell follows a menopause survey they commissioned with YouGov.
The study of 1,025 HR decision makers working across British businesses found that only one in five (21%) employers consider menopausal symptoms during the performance reviews of female staff. This is despite it being widely accepted that the effects of the menopause can be debilitating for a woman’s physical and psychological wellbeing. Symptoms have a huge impact on a women’s confidence in work, lead to periods of absence and, in some case resignations. The survey also found that only 13% of organisations that had a high representation of women in their workforce had a menopausal policy.
According to Irwin Mitchell, this lack of action is compounding the current skills shortage and it will make it more difficult to attract new employees. Lawyers also warn that it could result in businesses facing costly discrimination claims in the future.
Expert Opinion“These are disappointing results and when you consider menopause is an issue affecting the fastest-growing demographic in the UK, namely women aged 50-64, it’s clear businesses must do more.
“It’s about time that menopause is openly discussed as a health and work issue and for employers to demonstrate that they take it seriously. Establishing a menopause policy is a simple and valuable starting point.
“Not only does a menopause policy help promote positive change within an organisation, it sets a framework for evidencing how it will approach conversations about the menopause, what support affected employees can expect to receive, and where they can access additional help. In doing so, it reduces the risk of costly disputes.
“There has been a significant rise in the number of employment tribunals where menopause is mentioned over the last two to three years and as awareness of this issue grows, we expect to see complaints increase further. Our survey demonstrates that there is a considerable amount of work still to do. This risk will increase if additional legal protection is given to those who have significant menopausal symptoms, which is something the Women and Equalities Committee are considering.
“Organisations that have woken up to the issue and are aware of the challenges that women face when going through the menopause are in a much stronger place to attract and retain colleagues who are often at the peak of their experience and have many more productive years ahead of them.”
Jenny Arrowsmith - Partner
Irwin Mitchell’s report follows a survey by renowned GP and menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson. Her research last October found that 99% of respondents said their perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms had led to a negative impact on their careers, with more than a third calling the impact ‘significant’. Almost 20% were off more than eight weeks and half of this group resigned or took early retirement.
Commenting on Irwin Mitchell’s research, Dr Louise Newson said: “I am saddened yet unsurprised by the findings of this survey. The themes that highlight the challenges and inequalities perimenopausal and menopausal women face at work continuously reoccur in research and I have found similar findings through my own. Signposting to evidence-based information and facilitating access to treatment is so important for managing peri/menopausal symptoms and helping women to thrive in both their personal and professional lives. For example, we have found that 71 % of women using the free balance app have found it easier to talk about the menopause at work and 39% missed fewer days of work. It is the responsibility of organisations to create a menopause confident environment and the evidence suggests that those who do, retain talent and empower both their female and male employees.”
One organisation which is introducing a menopause strategy is Sheffield-based NOCN Group
Employing 180 people NOCN Group is a leading UK skills and education charity which has already provided a guidance document for all employees and is planning training across the organisation. It is also focussing on gathering data about staff absence. The intention is to identify those people currently affected by menopause and treat any related absence in the same way as the protected characteristic of disability.
Louise Fort, Head of People and Culture at NOCN Group, said:
“Our menopause strategy is focused on a number of actions. These include specialist training, informative guidance and policies which ensure affected individuals are not adversely impacted if they need to be absent from work.
“Introducing a menopause strategy is about this NOCN Group becoming an employer of choice. Our action in this area is about helping us retain our colleagues and attract new ones. Our colleagues are first and foremost people, not a job title, and supporting them with menopause helps build and enhance our employee empowered culture.”
Key statistics from businesses surveyed:
- Almost three quarters (72%) of businesses do not have a menopause policy.
- Over a quarter (27%) of large businesses (250 employees or more) say they have a menopause policy but only 10% of small firms (0-50 employees) do.
- Even within organisations where the workforce is more than 50% women, the same low level of organisations (13%) have no menopause policy.
- Over three quarters (77%) of manufacturing businesses questioned say that they don’t have a menopause policy in place.
- Only 16% of businesses train their line managers about the menopause. 94% of organisations in hospitality & leisure surveyed say they provide no training in this area.
- Almost half (44%) of all the businesses that say they do not train their staff about the menopause admit to not having thought about it. 15% don’t consider it a priority whilst 7% claim that sensitivities and embarrassment about the issue hold them back.
- Only half of organisations questioned (50%) say they are confident that women in their organisation are feel able to talk about the menopause. Almost 1/3 (31%) say they are not confident and 1 in 5 say they’re don’t know.
- Within organisations where the proportion of women was the highest, the confidence levels amongst HR teams that employees are able to talk to their employer was the lowest (57%).
- Only 18% of organisations say they provide information about the menopause to their employees with 13% offering internal support groups.
- Almost 2/3 (64%) of businesses say they do not consider menopause during performance reviews for female staff. This is even higher in some sectors including manufacturing (76%), hospitality & leisure (75%), media, marketing & advertising (67%).
- Larger organisations (250+ employees) consider issues around the menopause during performance reviews (27%) more than smaller businesses (10 to 49 employees) do (16%).
**All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1025 HD decision makers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th - 28th February 2022. The survey was carried out online.