Menopause at Work: A Guide to starting the Conversation

The menopause doesn’t stop at the door of your office when you walk in. Hot flushes, headaches, anxiety, brain fog, poor concentration, and more can strike at any time, whether you’re working quietly at your desk, chairing a meeting over Teams, or presenting your finished project to your clients.

Frequently women suffer in silence, worried that they won’t be understood, that they’ll be dismissed, or even not believed. For those women who experience severe symptoms, 1 in 4 consider leaving their jobs, with two thirds saying that they had no support at work. With approximately 3.5 million women over 50 in the workplace, this is a sizeable amount of the experienced, talented workforce leaving because of a lack of support while they’re experiencing the menopause.

There are a lot of fears about perceptions of menopause, that we’ll be judged as not being as capable as before and that we won’t be understood, especially if our manager is male or younger. The important thing to remember is that the menopause affects each woman differently, with some having severe symptoms and others having mild symptoms. Talking about it is vital to make sure no one feels isolated in the workplace.

If you are struggling and need support then you need to be the one to initiate the discussion at work.

The worst thing is to suffer in silence and to not even broach it. Your manager isn’t there to fix your symptoms but they are there to ease your way at work. As with any other health condition, talk to your line manager if you think you need a referral to HR or Occupational Health.

How to have the conversation:

  1. Look for existing information.
    The best thing to do first is explore whether there are policies, guidance documents, or intranet content available on the menopause. This will give you information and guidance about what support and reasonable adjustments are available. If your employer doesn’t have specific menopause at work policies, then existing policies such as flexible working are relevant and often a referral to Occupational Health will help ensure you get the support you need.
  1. Identify the right person to have the conversation with.
    Most of the time this is our line manager and even though it may not feel like a comfortable conversation, it’s important to remember that most managers really do want to support and help their colleagues.
  1. Plan your conversation, what do you want to get out of it?
    Following a structure which covers some of the points below can help to keep you focussed, and most importantly, get you towards your desired outcome.
  • This is what’s happening to me.
  • This is the impact my symptoms are having on me at work.
  • This is what would help me.
  1. Pick a safe space for the conversation.
    This is incredibly important, especially if you’ve never spoken about the menopause before in work. Choosing somewhere quiet, where you won’t be interrupted is key. It’s also normal to feel emotional as the menopause can be a huge part of your life, and actually having the conversation privately may feel like a relief.
  1. Follow up.
    It’s vital to make sure that the support you’re getting is right for you and to have the opportunity to make adjustments if needed.

The most important thing is don’t struggle or suffer in silence, talking about the menopause is becoming the norm more and more. Companies are starting to bring in or update existing menopause policies, with accreditations existing to demonstrate they are menopause friendly organisations.

Taking that step, speaking to the right person and identifying the support you need will help to make your working day that much easier, plus it’s vital to get the right support from your GP that works for you.

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