On my first day back at work in 2020 I emailed my Managing Director and told him that we needed a menopause policy. This wasn’t something that had been on my radar six months earlier. I was vaguely aware of bigger companies talking about it, and about an awareness day a few months earlier, but it hadn’t been a big focus for me.
This was until I was reading a twitter thread from the Menopause Café at Filia, where people were live tweeting their symptoms and I slowly ticked off almost every one of them.
We’re not taught about the menopause anywhere. Let’s face it, we only had one brief session with the “Tampax woman” to talk about periods when I was at school. And that was only for girls. The boys apparently didn’t need to know anything about it. I thought that you have a few hot flushes, your periods stop and then “all” you have to worry about is osteoporosis.
Reading the filia twitter thread was a real eye-opener. I’d had a range of these symptoms all year and been to see the GP about most of them, but neither of us put them all together to look at what was going on holistically.
I also didn’t realise how debilitating the menopause could be – the lack of energy, but inability to sleep at night (seriously, we’ve only just got our 4 year old sleeping through the night, and now this!), the aching joints and muscle tension, itchy skin, memory lapses and difficulty concentrating, anxiety, low mood – to name some of the big hitters for me.
This is when I realised how important it is that menopausal women are protected in the workplace, in the same way that pregnant women are protected. This is needed as only women experience the menopause, so failure to do so could be seen as sexual discrimination from a legal perspective.
As a minimum, organisations should have:
- Sick leave related to menopausal symptoms should be recorded differently and not used as a performance measure
- Reasonable adjustments made at work, from having a fan or sitting near an open window, to allowing regular breaks, flexible working, part-time working, changing role where this will help
- A supportive manager who recognises that the menopause can have a major impact on some women
I work for a reasonably small company which doesn’t have a lot of resource for writing policies, so my MD telephoned me after my original email and asked me to write our menopause policy. I agreed and the more research I do on this, the more I feel that women are being done a disservice by the lack of awareness of the menopause. This needs to change.
The Menopause Monologues – Harriet Powell & M R Goodwin, ISBN-10 1793174687