Coping with menopause at work – Bodyline
In recent research conducted by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) in 2023, focused on health and wellbeing at work in the UK, a notable surge in sickness absence among employees has been identified. On average, each worker takes 7.8 days off per year, which marks the highest level in the past decade. This represents an increase of two full days from the pre-pandemic figure of 5.8 days. The study, which encompassed responses from over 900 organisations covering a workforce of more than 6.5 million individuals, revealed that mental health issues and stress remain prevalent factors behind short-term absences. Notably, 76% of organisations reported instances of stress-related sick leave over the previous year. This number spiked to a staggering 92% in organisations employing over 250 people. Furthermore, mental health concerns, encompassing depression and anxiety, emerged as the leading cause of long-term absence.
Within the UK, approximately 13 million women, roughly a third of the female population, currently find themselves in the perimenopausal or menopausal stage. Women aged 45 to 54, coping with menopause at work, constitute 11% of the UK’s working demographic and 23% of employed women. With an estimated loss of 14 million working days each year due to menopause-related symptoms, it is highly probable that menopause at work is contributing to the statistics in the report. However, it may be wrongly attributed to stress, mental health issues, or minor illnesses, which emerged as the primary causes of short-term absence. It is conceivable that women coping with menopause at work might be hesitant to disclose the true reason for their absence due to feelings of embarrassment or the existing workplace stigma on this topic. Intriguingly, the report also pointed out that management style was cited as a common source of stress-related absence in the realm of health and wellbeing at work.
The British Menopause Society reports that 45% of women have indicated that menopausal symptoms have had a detrimental impact on their professional lives. In a previous survey carried out by CIPD in collaboration with YouGov, it was found that of those women coping with menopause at work, nearly one-third have had to take sick leave. Shockingly, a staggering 75% felt unable to disclose the actual reason for their absence, citing privacy concerns, embarrassment, and unsupportive management as the top three factors. The persisting taboo and insufficient support in this area may lead to more women who are coping with menopause at work exiting the workforce at the pinnacle of their careers, impacting both gender diversity in senior management and levels of gender pay gaps.
Moreover, there are indications that UK employers may be quietly affected by menopausal symptoms of a psychological nature being misdiagnosed as depression and other mental health issues. Menopause at work encompasses a wide array of symptoms, encompassing recognised physical manifestations such as hot flashes, fatigue, disrupted sleep, breast tenderness, urgency to urinate, and loss of bladder control, as well as headaches, migraines, weight gain, and bloating. Concurrently, there exists a host of associated mental health symptoms, including anxiety, depression, cognitive fog, mood swings, reduced concentration, diminished motivation, and decreased confidence. Regrettably, these are frequently overlooked and erroneously treated.
The GenM Invisibility Report underscored a notable lack of self-awareness among women regarding the menopausal symptoms they experience. Astonishingly, fewer than 15% of those surveyed could identify depression, anxiety, or irritability, even though research consistently places these among the top ten most incapacitating symptoms. The report also revealed that one in five women consult a doctor six times before obtaining the menopause advice and treatment they require, further indicating that work absences are often attributed to causes other than menopause.
The CIPD report offers several recommendations, including the integration of staff lifecycle considerations into health and wellbeing strategies, the promotion of flexible work arrangements, and the fostering of a supportive culture surrounding menopause transition to facilitate employees in seeking the support they need.
Given the current challenges in obtaining a doctor’s appointment, coupled with the escalating wait times for treatment, there exists a prime opportunity for organisations to support employees coping with menopause at work by expanding their benefits packages and referring women experiencing menopausal symptoms to specialised clinical menopause providers like Bodyline Medical Wellness Clinics for timely and top-tier treatment and support.
Sally-Ann Turner, the Managing Director and Founder of Bodyline, emphasises that menopause should not be treated as an illness in the workplace. Rather, it should be viewed as a phase in a woman’s life where additional support and treatment may be necessary to address symptoms. These symptoms can commence in a woman’s mid-30s during perimenopause and persist well into her mid-50s. Turner advocates for an approach that addresses the root cause of symptoms and provides tailored support throughout the menopause journey. Recognising the unique experiences of each woman, she argues against a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment and support, asserting that menopause should be a crucial consideration in every organisation’s business agenda.