Is it me, or is it hot in here…?

By: Liz Dawe

Date: 9 April 2015

Is it just me, or is it hot in here…?Yes, it's the standard self-deprecating line from menopausal women, but menopausal symptoms in real life are not much of a joke and can affect the working lives of the 3 million-plus women over 50 in the workplace.

While the symptoms of the menopause are very common, including hot flushes, irregular or heavy periods and interrupted sleep, very few workplaces have any policy on accommodating the needs of women during this phase of their lives.

Despite an employer's general duty of care to staff, and legislation on treating both genders without discrimination, in practice the menopause is still a taboo subject and women may be reluctant to flag up their needs or difficulties or ask for adjustments to be made.

Simple strategies such as providing desk-top fans where the workplace temperature can't be regulated or varied, access to cold drinking water, sufficient toilet breaks and facilities for changing clothes or even adapting uniforms, could make a significant difference to women's experience of the workplace and, consequently, to their productivity.

The physical and psychological changes that many women experience around the menopause can have a significant impact on their mental health and self-esteem. For women and for employers, addressing these issues without blame or ridicule could help employers retain experienced staff and enable women to enter the next stage of their working lives with confidence.

A recent leaflet, produced by Unionlearn with the TUC, looks at the most common symptoms of the menopause, the Health and Safety implications for employers, and suggests ways to support staff affected.

In the name of equality and work-life balance we've made great strides recognising the needs of pregnant workers, parents and disabled employees. Maybe it's time to look at the (usually transient) needs of another significant section of the workforce and shed another taboo.

What does the * mean?

If a link has a * this means it is an affiliate link. To find out more, see our FAQs.