"Improving how women experiencing menopause are accommodated in the workplace should be a priority for employers."
- Clare Moffat, pensions expert at Royal London
Of those surveyed (3,000), 86% of women navigating menopause have said symptoms are making work harder, while 5 in 10 are thinking of leaving employment altogether as a result. Clare Moffat, pensions expert at Royal London, has said it’s clear that many employers are losing key employees because of a lack of menopause support. “Women are suddenly questioning themselves and their abilities and the lack of support and understanding in the workplace is causing them to leave work in their droves,” she explained.
“But with more support for women, the menopause talent drain can be addressed, stemming the tide of women who feel they have to leave the world of work and reducing health-related economic inactivity – a significant issue impacting over 50s in the UK.”
Clare thought it was encouraging that 82% of women going through menopause said they would be more likely to stay with their current employer if they were better supported. However, only a third of women would be willing to speak to a male manager about menopause symptoms compared to 75% of women who would happily speak to a female superior. “Almost a million women are leaving their job because of menopausal symptoms, which is having a huge impact on their retirement […] Quite apart from the loss of income, women miss out on important pension savings at a key stage in their life, resulting in them being up to £126k worse off in retirement,” she highlighted.
“Managers need to better understand menopause and how they can support employees. Creating a supportive workplace environment and signposting effective menopause support will help employees and ensure the economy benefits too.”
Meanwhile, according to Group Risk Development (GRiD), even if employers don’t have a dedicated menopause support provider, they may have more support for menopause than they realise. GRiD emphasised that many employee benefits providers include a “broad range of support that many employers will be able to provide support for menopause at no additional cost to their organisation.”
The industry body explained that most group risk benefits (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection, and critical illness) now often include access to a virtual GP, “so anyone needing general menopause support would be able to speak directly to a GP if they had concerns.” Likewise, since anxiety is a symptom that is often experienced by menopausal women, most group risk benefits include Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) which offer support for anxiety, embedded as standard.
“Some group providers also widen support to include apps and other online platforms for wellness issues including musculoskeletal, nutrition and sleep, all of which can be beneficial for someone experiencing menopausal symptoms.”
GRiD highlighted the health and wellness perks offered through EAPs, with discounts and offers for gyms and online workouts. “Taking regular exercise is thought to improve menopausal symptoms including improving sleep, reducing anxiety, and supporting better bone health,” GRiD explained. Considering this year’s theme for World Menopause Day 2023 is cardiovascular disease the industry body explained that hormonal decline can have an impact on the heart, but many group risk benefits provide support from third-party medical professionals with extensive experience with conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, said that if employers do a deep dive into their existing employee benefits, they will find that they can create a suite of support for their employees affected by menopause. “Not only does this mean they won’t incur any additional costs, but by promoting the support they already have in place they are likely to see engagement and utilisation improve too,” she explained.
“It’s easy to put employee benefits into silos – a benefit that tackles mental health, another that tackles physical health - however, it’s more than possible to create packages of support for specific employee groups - menopausal staff being just one of them - by mining the breadth of support often available all in one place.”
On behalf of RedArc, Christine Husbands said that menopause awareness is higher than it’s ever been which can only be a good thing for women, many of whom had previously suffered their symptoms in silence or embarrassment. “However, this increased desire for information, remedies, and solutions has led to some misinformation and myths circulating on the internet, amongst women themselves and via other ‘experts’,” she explained.
Since RedArc regularly supports patients with cancer, the company has experience with menopause triggered by cancer treatment and understands what’s needed. In the last twelve months, the service provider has seen a marked increase in requests for menopause support, with many women looking for a sounding board and source of reliable information to manage symptoms. A sense of anxiety and loss of fertility were the most commonly reported menopausal symptoms.
“We are increasingly finding that women are looking for a listening ear and someone to provide much-needed reassurance as well as reliable information.”
While Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can improve these symptoms, it doesn’t always eradicate them completely, leaving menopausal women to learn how to manage hormonal changes on their own. Instead, RedArc helps patients prepare for GP appointments, navigate the NHS, as well as signpost them to organisations that provide specialist support or peer support. When required, patients are encouraged to attend therapy or other interventions such as a conversation with a menopause consultant.
Debra Clark, Head of Wellbeing at Towergate Health & Protection, agreed that while menopause is now being discussed more openly in the workplace, more could be done to introduce specific support. “The education route – making employees aware of the symptoms and issues associated with menopause – can be a good starting point,” she suggested.
“It is important however, for employers to also consider including younger women and men, who may not be directly affected by menopause, in any communication or educational sessions so that they have a greater understanding and can be more supportive of colleagues.”
Debra believes that forward-thinking companies not only educate but proactively support their staff, expanding the guidance available on a regular basis. Likewise, she’s seen the number of specialist providers increasing while mainstream health insurers are now offering support for menopause and menstrual health. “We would encourage employers to talk to an adviser who can give guidance on the latest developments and the most appropriate options for support in their organisation,” she concluded.