A guide to writing your menopause policy: The most important things to think about before you get started

The aim of a menopause policy is to ensure that everyone feels supported and valued within the workplace as they navigate this complicated but natural stage of life. In this guide, we'll explain the importance of having a menopause policy, offer some guidance on menopause and how to minimise its impact in the workplace, and provide some practical steps you can take when writing your own.

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Menopause is set to impact 1.2 billion women in 2023. As the fastest growing demographic in the workplace, more individuals than ever before will go through menopause or experience menopausal symptoms whilst at work. Despite being a completely natural stage of life, menopause remains a taboo subject in many workplaces, with so many people feeling embarrassed or ashamed to discuss their symptoms or to ask for additional support when needed.

Despite often being at the peak of their careers, half of those experiencing menopause symptoms have decreased job satisfaction and a staggering 42% consider leaving work altogether.

The aim of a menopause policy is to ensure that everyone feels supported and valued within the workplace

A comprehensive menopause policy can help to break down these barriers by promoting menopause awareness and creating a more supportive working environment for employees who are struggling through menopause or perimenopause. Your menopause policy should provide practical guidance for employers, HR teams and managers to help them understand how best to create menopause-friendly workplaces. It should also outline potential adjustments that can be made to support people with menopause-related symptoms, such as hot flushes, insomnia, and mental health or cognitive symptoms.

Think about menopause as a workplace issue, not an individual issue; a menopause policy should create a supportive and inclusive workplace culture that recognises the impact menopause can have on a person's life.

Your menopause policy should also highlight your legal obligations as an employer. For example, employers must provide reasonable adjustments to any employees with a health condition, including menopause. Adjustments can range from flexible working to buying desk fans for the office, but they are all valuable in their own right. Being completely clear and on top of your legal obligations as an employer will mean that your employees won't experience unlawful discrimination in the workplace. It'll help you create a more equitable, supportive and friendly environment for all of your employees as well as a transparent and open culture.

A 'good' workplace menopause policy should consider the needs of everyone impacted by menopause and cover all the possible symptoms people may experience

When writing your menopause policy, it's important to think about all of the issues that might impact employees with symptoms of menopause, including both the physical and psychological symptoms.

There's no such thing as a model policy, but a comprehensive one will not only consider menopausal women, but also take into consideration the needs of trans people and non-binary people who may also experience menopause. Your policy should be as inclusive as possible in both the language you use when writing it, as well as what your people are entitled to.

You should also keep in mind menopause can affect people at different stages of life. 1 in 100 women experience premature ovarian insufficiency (the early onset of menopause).). Your policy should consider the experiences of all people who may have menopause-related symptoms, not just women in a certain age demographic. 

Your policy should outline the potential adjustments that can be made to support people who are going through menopause, touching on a range of issues.

This may seem a little obvious, but making sure people have access to cold water, toilet and washing facilities, sanitary products and areas of the office that are away from a heat source is important.

Your policy should also offer guidance on how to deal with menopause-related absence too, which can often be a difficult or awkward subject to talk about, but definitely needs to be addressed. Employers should consider making adjustments to their performance management system to account for any impact of menopause on productivity. A decrease in productivity and difficulty concentrating is a very common impact of menopause and something we see a lot through our work at Fertifa.

A comprehensive menopause policy should be a tool that helps to support anyone experiencing menopause-related symptoms in the workplace, and inclusive of all employees. By recognising menopause as a health condition and developing policies to manage its impact at work, employers can create a more supportive and inclusive work environment, leading to happier, healthier, and more productive employees.

When writing your menopause policy, you should define any terms that might be unfamiliar or open to interpretation

Definitions are an important aspect of any written document, including policies, procedures, and guidelines. They provide complete clarity and make sure that anyone reading the document is on the same page. Clear wording plays an important role in ensuring your policy is effective and understood by everyone involved.

Clear definitions and wording also help to prevent misunderstandings and potential conflicts. When everyone agrees on the meaning of a word or phrase, it's easier to avoid confusion or misinterpretation down the line. When drafting your menopause policy, it's important to make sure you use clear and concise language and avoid overly broad or vague definitions that could lead to confusion. This is especially important when it comes to sensitive issues that aren't openly spoken about, like menopause.

For example, when writing a menopause policy, it's a good idea to clearly define terms such as "menopausal symptoms," "hot flushes," "menopausal transition" and "premature menopause."

Educate yourself and your team about the common symptoms of menopause

Menopause is defined as a person's last ever period. An individual is considered to have reached menopause 12 months after their last period. Menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as oestrogen levels decline. Perimenopause (sometimes referred to as the menopause transition) is the time before a person's last period when their hormone levels begin to fluctuate, oestrogen levels start to decrease, and they start to experience symptoms typically associated with menopause. This period of physical and mental adjustment is sometimes referred to as the menopause transition. Perimenopause can last for several years, and someone can start experiencing menopause and perimenopause symptoms up to 10 years before their last period! 

Usually, the first sign that someone is becoming perimenopausal is a change in their normal menstrual cycles. This change represents any sudden shift in a person's monthly cycle; namely irregular periods (they become more or less frequent) and unusually light or heavy periods.

As well as changes to an individual's monthly periods, there are some common and completely normal perimenopause symptoms that can affect daily life. It's important to keep in mind that there are a wide range of symptoms and health issues associated with menopause, and that the type and severity of menopause symptoms vary from person to person.

Menopausal symptoms can include:

  • Changes in skin condition, oiliness or the development of acne
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Joint stiffness, aches, and pains
  • Vaginal dryness and atrophic vaginitis (thinning and inflammation of the vaginal wall)
  • Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and urinary incontinence
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hot flashes or hot flushes (a sudden feeling of heat)
  • Night sweats
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Memory loss
  • Weight gain
  • Dry skin and dry mouth
  • Skin irritation
  • Joint pain
  • Bone loss or loss of bone density
  • Sleep disturbances or sleep issues
  • High blood pressure
  • Breast tenderness
  • Racing heart
  • Irregular periods and heavy bleeding

Emotional symptoms are also common in menopausal women. Mental health issues such as increased anxiety, panic attacks, low mood, irritability, reduced sex drive (libido), mood swings, or psychological issues such as feeling a loss of self can all appear during the menopause transition.

Experiences of menopause vary from person to person. Some people will experience severe symptoms, whereas others won't even notice they're going through it or have some of the more mild symptoms. Whatever the case may be or whether you've experienced them yourself, you can imagine how any of the symptoms listed above (even when mild) could have considerable impacts on employee health and productivity.

Visit this page for a more detailed look at the various menopausal symptoms.

A menopause policy is necessary for workplace equality, to keep your best performing staff, create an inclusive culture, and to make sure you're fulfilling your legal obligations as an employer

Menopause is an equality issue

Menopause affects nearly half of the population, yet there are so many stigmas around it in the workplace. This lack of understanding can lead to negative stereotypes and discrimination against people who are going through menopause or feeling the effects of menopause transition. By implementing a menopause policy, employers will show their people that they really care. It normalises something that's an inevitable part of life and means that more people will have access to the right support, instead of suffering in silence.

Menopause can have a negative impact on work performance

The symptoms of menopause can have a big impact on work performance. People's negative experiences of menopause symptoms such hot flushes, night sweats, and sleep disturbances may also include difficulty concentrating and staying focused on their work. Naturally, this can lead to mistakes, missed deadlines, and decreased productivity. Psychological symptoms like brain fog, anxiety and memory loss can also have an impact on people'sperformance and output at work. By providing support and reasonable adjustments for women going through menopause, employers can help minimise the impact of these symptoms on work performance.

One proven way to provide support is by promoting an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). Counselling, wellbeing support and adjustments are just some of the ways Employee Assistance Programmes can help your employees.

Click here for more information on EAPs.

Menopause can be a sensitive topic

Talking about menopause can be difficult, especially in a workplace setting. It's completely normal for people to feel embarrassed talking about it because menopause is something that's only now becoming normalised. It's only now that we are seeing conversations open up about it in the workplace, however, there remains a lack of understanding among many employers, with many yet to establish effective frameworks for menopause support. By implementing a menopause policy, employers will be creating a safe, inclusive and supportive culture where people can bring their best selves to work.

A menopause policy is a legal obligation

Employers have a legal duty to provide a safe and supportive working environment for all employees. This legal requirement includes supporting people going through menopause or perimenopause. Not fulfilling this legal duty leaves employers at risk of being accused of disability discrimination, so it's really important to do so.

Menopause Policy Template

Some final bits of guidance for managers writing a menopause policy

There is no set rule when it comes to writing your menopause policy. Every company is unique, and every journey towards establishing a menopause-friendly workplace will look slightly different. 

In case you are looking for some guidance on how to structure your policy, we've put together this menopause policy template to walk you through some of the key considerations, and help ensure your policy is as inclusive and comprehensive as possible.

1. Acknowledge and recognise the stress that can come with menopause challenges and treatment

Managing menopause symptoms and work can be overwhelming and very isolating at times, with lots of people reporting feeling a loss of confidence at work when badly affected by menopause symptoms. Make sure your workplace policy is written in a way that is empathetic to the stresses and challenges members of your team may be facing. This is important for creating a supportive workplace in which people feel safe to disclose their struggles and are able to make use of the support you are providing. If you are struggling to establish such an environment, assigning designated menopause advocates and champions who talk openly can help normalise the conversation and encourage others to similarly share their experiences.

2. Clearly outline what you mean by flexible working and if employees are entitled to dedicated menopause leave

When writing your menopause policy, it's important not to be vague in what type of leave or alternative working arrangements people are entitled to so it's as easy as possible to understand. Outline a clear and easy process that defines exactly how an employee should request to take time off if they are unable to work due to menopause symptoms, whether this falls under your normal sickness absence policy or if you have a separate allowance for menopause-related absences. Your policy should also address your company's approach to long-term health conditions, as long-term absences caused by menopause should be treated alike.

3. Make sure you've noted that the use of menopause leave or support will be fully confidential

Make that it is clearly stated in your policy, and all line managers understand, that the use of any menopause support your company offers is kept fully confidential unless the person affected by menopause or perimenopause wants to let their teammates know. It's an incredibly personal and sensitive issue; sometimes people want their team to know, whereas other times people want to keep any medical conditions they might have private.

4. Consider other reasonable adjustments you can make to help people manage menopause symptoms effectively

These adjustments can range from simple changes to the working environment to more substantial alterations to workloads and schedules. Hot flushes are a common symptom of menopause, and they can make it difficult for someone going through to work in a hot or stuffy environment. Employers can adjust the temperature in the workplace, provide fans, and ensure there is access to drinking water to help women affected by menopause stay comfortable. For some women, menopause can significantly affect their energy levels and ability to concentrate. Offering flexible working arrangements, such as reduced hours or the option to work from home, can help them manage their workload and avoid burnout. Provide practical guidance for employees by outlining the type of support that is available for those who are impacted by menopause challenges.

5. Make sure your policy is inclusive

When writing your policy remember that trans and non-binary people can also go through menopause and be affected by perimenopause and menopausal symptoms. Make sure your policy uses inclusive language and clearly states it is applicable to anyone impacted by menopausal symptoms, not just women. 

6. Once you've shared your policy with the wider company, invite people to provide feedback

It's important to be open when making changes to your menopause policy and acting on feedback, so it's as helpful as it possibly can be. Feedback can be given by organising a small focus group, an anonymous questionnaire, or simply asking for feedback or input via email. Remember, this should be considered a working document which is subject to regular review. As you learn how to be an inclusive and better employer, your reproductive health policies should develop too.

By taking an inclusive, thoughtful, and proactive approach, your organisation can create a supportive, effective, and understanding environment for all employees. You should also provide training to managers to help them understand what the policy means and how to effectively support someone impacted by menopause or perimenopause. A supportive work environment where menopausal women feel comfortable discussing their symptoms and seeking help can go a long way towards helping them manage menopause 💜

Get in touch to discover more!

If you're looking to put menopause support in place, book in a call with our team who can talk you through how to work with Fertifa 💜