Menopause and Workplace Support

Dorcas Barry
People Science Lead at inclusio
May 26, 2023 - 4 min read

There are good reasons why employers should treat menopause as an important workplace issue.  In taking menopause seriously, organisations can help to alleviate the potential negative impact of symptoms on both the individual and the organisation and contribute positively to menopausal women’s wellbeing. 


What is menopause?

Menopause is the natural cessation of the menstrual cycle for both cisgender women and trans men. It happens at the average age of 51 and symptoms can last, on average, up to ten years. 

Because menopause affects everyone at some stage in their lives, either by the person themself or through partners and family, there is a real need to create awareness around the potential issues that can occur during this time of life.  This is especially important in the workplace so that everyone has the opportunity to thrive and reach their potential in their career. 


How does menopause affect women at work?

Menopause is a workplace issue for a variety of reasons: 

1. Women of menopause age are the largest growing cohort in the workforce, with 8 out of 10 menopausal women at work according to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM). The result of this, alongside the phenomenon of a worldwide ageing workforce, means that more women than ever before will experience menopause at work in the future.  

As a result of this, it is important to acknowledge menopause as a distinctive and individualised aspect of health-related gendered ageing in the workplace today.


2. Menopause starts on average in the mid to late 40s which are the years that are often critical for career progression and promotion. But until recently, it has been a taboo subject at work, and while this is now starting to change, there is still some way to go.   

Many women still feel reluctant to disclose being in menopause at work for fear of being seen as old or unable to do their job properly, and reluctant to discuss menopause with managers, who are often male and younger. 


3. Menopause symptoms affect work ability in ¾ of women, experienced due to both psychological and physical symptoms. 1 in 4 women in menopause will consider leaving work due to debilitating symptoms which is a very real issue for both the women concerned and their organisations.  

This is a health issue like any other and therefore employers have a responsibility to support all of their employees to be as well as possible at work during this stage of life.   


4. The most common problems experienced by women at work are fatigue, anxiety, hot flushes, lack of concentration, and poor sleep.  It can be overwhelming to experience some of these symptoms together, especially in the workplace and particularly so if symptoms are not addressed and supported.  The Office for National Statistics in the UK reported that 14m working days were lost to physical and psychological menopause symptoms in 2016. 

Apart from absenteeism, the effect of menopause symptoms on ability to work often results in high levels of presenteeism, where many women continue at work despite experiencing severe symptoms. 


5, Menopause can affect levels of resilience, with a knock-on effect on ability to work.  Women can often feel that their symptoms are something to be endured, put up with and up to them personally to cope with – all without drawing attention to themselves at work.  

The taboo nature of this subject, fear of disclosure, stress and physical discomfort can all lead to lowered levels of resilience.  Taking the stigma out of menopause can help women to feel more able to ask for help. 


6. Stress at work can make menopause symptoms worse as a bi-directional relationship exists between the workplace itself and the symptoms. A lack of good ventilation, lighting, and uncomfortable work clothing can exacerbate hot flushes in particular, not knowing where to go for help, feeling isolated and a lack of knowledge of psychological symptoms can create fear and stress. 

Developing menopause awareness and understanding will give any organisation a cutting edge for both well-being and productivity and will provide benefits both for the individual and the organisation in significant ways. For more information, check out  inclusio’s menopause awareness training course. 


Dorcas Barry is People Science Lead for inclusio - a science-based, data-led diversity and inclusion platform that measures and enhances belonging in the workplace. Dorcas researches, develops and creates user content grounded in organisational behaviour and psychology. She delivers client reports with insights across all organisational levels.

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