Working women and menopause: How employers can help
Menopause, when a woman’s menstrual cycle stops permanently, typically occurs between age 45 and 55. According to the National Institutes of Health, it can last anywhere from seven to 14 years.
Although it affects women differently, common symptoms include hot flashes, trouble sleeping, mood swings and difficulty concentrating.
These symptoms can create challenges for women at work, and talking about them with a supervisor or manager may make some women uncomfortable. However, employers can take steps to help workers cope.
In its Guidance on Menopause and the Workplace, the Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians in London adapts recommendations from the European Menopause and Andropause Society. They include:
- Provide training for employees and managers to raise awareness about menopause and that it can present difficulties for some women at work.
- Facilitate discussions about symptoms, and communicate that these are normal.
- Review control of workplace temperature and ventilation, and explore how they might be adapted to meet individual workers’ needs. This might include providing a desktop fan in an office, or placing a workstation near an open window or away from a heat source.
- Consider flexible working hours or shift changes.
- Where work requires constant standing or prolonged sitting, access to break rooms can be helpful.
- Provide access to cold drinking water in all work areas.
- Ensure access to restroom facilities, including in temporary locations.
- When workers are required to wear uniforms, flexibility is helpful. This might include the use of thermally comfortable fabrics, optional layers, being allowed to remove scarves or jackets, and making changing facilities available.
- For women in customer-focused roles, it may help to have access to a quiet room for a short break to manage a severe hot flash.