Women are working in greater numbers and later in life than ever before. In the UK, around 4.3 million women aged 50 and over are in employment. Across Europe, employment rates for women aged 55 and 64 are also on the rise. Despite this, the subject of menopause in the workplace remains relatively taboo. Given that the average age for natural menopause is 51 years, now more than ever we need to discuss the subject of menopausal transition and how women may be affected at the workplace.
How can menopausal symptoms affect working women?
An evidence review conducted by the UK Government in 2017 estimated that 47% of the UK workforce will experience menopause transition during their working lives. While women’s experiences of menopausal transition vary significantly, up to a third of women will experience severe menopausal symptoms.[2,3] The most commonly reported difficulties menopausal women report at work include:
As well as impacting work performance, symptoms may also mean that women are absent from work more frequently or may not be able to work at all. Indeed, symptoms have been associated with:
Reduced engagement with work
Reduced job satisfaction
Reduced commitment to the organisation
Higher sickness absence
An increased desire to leave work altogether
Can HRT be an answer?
There is evidence that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can help some women to manage the effects of their symptoms at work. In a Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) survey, over 50% of the UK respondents stated that HRT helped them to continue their careers.
Another survey indicated that nearly 12% of the 127 women taking HRT said they chose to take it only because of work, and nearly 58% said work was a key reason. While 25% said that side effects were problematic, most indicated that HRT helped them to cope in the workplace.
The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) and European Menopause and Andropause Society (EMAS) consider HRT to be the most effective treatment for vasomotor symptoms. However, it is important that appropriate dose, formulation and route of administration is individualised to each woman and adapted throughout treatment where necessary. [7-9]
How employers can help manage the issue
It is key for employers to offer awareness and support to this population of employees. The British Menopausal Society (BMS) recommend providing internal organisational guidance. This guidance can contain information about the menopause and symptoms, in addition to an acknowledgment that women may not feel comfortable disclosing their menopause. The guidance should also:
Raise awareness of the effects of menopause amongst all staff, especially line managers
Address how best to approach conversations surrounding menopause
Acknowledge the legal issues around menopause and the duty of care employers have to ensure their staff’s health, safety and wellbeing
As well as creating guidance for staff, The Faculty of Occupational Medicine’s (FOM) Guidance on menopause and the workplace suggests that there are key steps to improve workplace environments.
Adapt workplace temperature and ventilation
Provide desktop fans or a workstation near an opening window or away from a heat source
Consider flexible working hours or shift changes
Provide access to cold drinking water in all work situations
Let’s continue the discussion!
Raising awareness about menopause in the workplace is essential. For this to happen, we must continue these conversations both at work and at home. It is great to see the topic of menopause in the workplace being covered by many eminent speakers at the 2019 EMAS conference in Berlin, a platform for the latest data and insights in the field. Stay up to date as we share these with you live from the event!
2. Avis NE, Colvin A, Bromberger JT, Hess R, Matthews KA, Ory M, et al. Change in health-related quality of life over the menopausal transition in a multiethnic cohort of middle-aged women: Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation. Menopause 2009;16:860–9.
3. Ayers B, Hunter MS. Health-related quality of life of women with menopausal hot flushes and night sweats. Climacteric 2012;15:1–5.
4. Hardy C, Griffiths A, Hunter MS. What do working menopausal women want? A qualitative investigation into women’s perspectives on employer and line manager support. Maturitas. 2017 Jul 1;101:37-41.
5. SIRC (Social Issues Research Centre) and HRT Aware. Report: Jubilee Women: Fifty Something Women— Lifestyle and Attitudes Now and Fifty Years Ago, HRT Aware, London, 2002.
6. Griffiths A et al. (2013) ‘Menopause and work: An electronic survey of employees’ attitudes in the UK’ Maturitas: volume 76, issue 2, pages 155-159
7. Woods NF and Utian W. Quality of life, menopause, and hormone therapy: an update and recommendations for future research. Menopause. 2018 Jul;25(7):713-720.
8. The NAMS 2017 Hormone Therapy Position Statement Advisory Panel. The 2017 hormone therapy position statement of The North American Menopause Society. Menopause. 2017 Jul;24(7):728-753.
9. Armeni E, Lambrinoudaki I, Ceausu I et al. Maintaining postreproductive health: A care pathway from the European Menopause and Andropause Society (EMAS). Maturitas. 2016 Jul;89:63-72.