Women of menopausal age are the fastest growing demographic in the UK. The average age of starting the menopause transition is in a woman’s 40s, often at the height of their careers. But for some, it can be earlier, entering early menopause in their 20s and 30s. As more employees experience the menopause during their working lives, organisations need to be aware of its impact in the workplace and offer appropriate support.
Menopause Day 2023: Cardiovascular Disease
This year’s theme for World Menopause Day 2023 is Cardiovascular Disease. Every year a different theme is highlighted, to raise awareness of the menopause and support options available for improving health and wellbeing; with encouragement of colleagues and professionals alike to effect change.
Menopause in the workplace
Menopause can have a profound impact; with multiple and sometimes debilitating symptoms. A CIPD report published earlier this month found that two thirds (67%) of women experiencing menopausal symptoms say they have had a negative impact on them at work, with a quarter of women saying they had a negative impact on career progression with this percentage rising for disabled women or women from a minority ethnic background. These challenges result in lower productivity, reduced morale and wellbeing, and may eventually lead to attrition. Around one in six people (17%) have considered leaving work due to a lack of support and a further 6% have left work due to symptoms. Menopause related employment tribunals are also on the rise due to the lack of support and adjustments for menopausal women by employers.
Those who felt supported by their employers generally reported feeling less pressure at work and less stressed, demonstrating the hugely positive impact policies and adjustments can have on an individual’s ability to manage their symptoms while also continuing their careers.
It is important to recognise the intersectional impact across gender and it is crucial for us to respect that every person’s experience with menopause can vary greatly. While predominately experienced by women, experiences may differ in relation to other protected characteristics such as age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion, sexual orientation and marriage/civil partnership status.
Transgender men, non-binary and intersex people may also experience menopause. Transgender women can also experience menopausal symptoms when they commence HRT treatment and hormones are adjusted, introduced or stopped, particularly before and after surgeries and procedures throughout the transition process.
It is important for all individuals to stand as allies and foster an inclusive, safe space and for support to be provided by employers.
Women in law
1922 saw the admission of the first woman solicitor in England and Wales. Over the last century, women have made significant progress now making up two-thirds of law graduates and 64% of newly qualified solicitors. However, while 61% of solicitors are female, they represent only 35% of law firm partners.
More needs to be done to retain talented women in the legal profession. We know that many women don’t tread the same path as men in the profession, and so collective action is required to level the playing field.
New workplace standards for menopause support
The Law Society provides guidance for firms which cites that organisations can better support all of their employees by creating an open culture and encouraging conversations about menopause, sharing resources and guidance, offering workplace training, and reasonable adjustments such as flexible working and managing health and absence fairly and flexibly. The menopause guidance webpages are some of our most frequently visited gender resources, highlighting the importance of the issue.
The British Standards Institution (BSI) has published a workplace standard on menstruation, menstrual health and menopause in the workplace. It has set out a framework of supportive actions and accommodations that firms can embed to support staff and retain talent, including training for managers, accessible facilities, flexible work patterns, menstruations and menopause policies, and reasonable adjustments.
Diversity and inclusion
Some organisations are leading the way with menopause policies, for example, Linklaters has introduced a global menopause policy and support package for colleagues across the firm, who are both directly or indirectly impacted by the menopause. Their package is to raise awareness and outline enhanced support including an app, 'Peppy Health' that provides online, inclusive menopause support in the UK and an enhanced scheme to cover specialist consultations for conditions relating to menopause.
For organisations committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive culture, not offering menopause support is no longer an option. Organisations that sideline menopause as a women’s issue will lose valuable talent.
There are plenty of resources and toolkits available to help organisations to support those experiencing the menopause as part of a wider D&I strategy. The Law Society’s D&I Framework is a strategic approach to diversity and inclusion that creates lasting change, wherever organisations are on their D&I journey. It has simple steps to follow, tangible actions to take and regular checkpoints to help monitor progress.
Similarly, the Women in Law Pledge encourages organisations to consider differential outcomes for different groups of women, tackle workplace culture and bias and produce a three year gender action plan. The Law Society currently has 51 signatories who are committed to supporting the progression of women into senior roles in the profession by focusing on retention and promotion opportunities; as well as setting clear plans and targets around gender inclusion.
Support from the Law Society’s Women’s Solicitors Network (WSN)
Whilst employers should promote healthy conversations, policies and support in place for employees; the WSN supports by promoting gender equality and empowering those who experience menopause to have open conversations; remain informed on the symptoms both for those experiencing the menopause and family members and colleagues.
The WSN committee are keen to support with speakers at events and wider initiatives. The committee has a wide range of people from various backgrounds, based across England and Wales. For more details on this support, contact the Law Society’s diversity and inclusion team: email@example.com.
Niresha Umaichelvam is a supervising solicitor advocate at Release. Neha Lugg is a senior legal trainer