The silent struggle: Managing menopause in the workplace

By BHSF | March 13th, 2024

news image

Menopause, a natural transition for women, often disrupts their work lives in hidden ways. Whilst society has started to acknowledge the physical symptoms surrounding menopause, the mental and emotional effects remain largely ignored. This lack of awareness creates a silent struggle for many women, leading to untapped potential and a decline in productivity and wellbeing. It's time to bring menopause out of the shadows and create supportive work environments that empower women to thrive during this transition.

Staggering statistics and economic burden

A lack of workplace support for women’s health is costing the UK dearly, according to new data from Benenden Health. The study reveals a staggering 150 million working days lost annually¹, translating to an average of nine lost workdays per woman per year.

Furthermore, studies focusing specifically on menopause, an important factor in women's health, reveal even steeper economic costs. A 2023 Peppy Health report estimates menopause alone could cost the UK economy a hefty £2.9 billion annually² due to lost productivity and time off work.

These figures highlight the urgent need for businesses to address women's health concerns. By creating supportive work environments, companies can not only improve employee wellbeing but also bolster their bottom line.

Menopause is far more than just hot flushes. Fluctuating hormones can trigger a wave of physical and mental challenges. Women may experience "brain fog," characterised by forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating, making everyday tasks frustrating. Additionally, joint aches, headaches, and night sweats can disrupt sleep and leave them feeling physically drained. On top of these physical changes, emotional fluctuations like irritability, anxiety, and even depression can add another layer of complexity. These combined symptoms can feel like a significant burden on top of the natural life transitions associated with menopause.

Investing in women's health: a boost for business

Studies show that six in ten business owners believe they could improve employee productivity by better supporting women's health. Companies that prioritise understanding menopause and offer support to female employees will gain a significant competitive advantage.

Open communication is key. Businesses should foster environments where women feel comfortable discussing their experiences. Internal campaigns and webinars can initiate open conversations, and external speakers can bring valuable insights. Updating policies to include menopause-related needs, such as flexible working arrangements to accommodate night sweats or insomnia, demonstrates a commitment to employee wellbeing.

Ultimately, a flexible and supportive approach is essential for maximising productivity and engagement. Investing in resources like virtual GP services and mental health helplines empowers women to access support discreetly and conveniently. By prioritising women's health, businesses not only create a more positive work environment but also unlock the full potential of their female workforce.

A Legal and Business Imperative

The law requires employers to prioritise employee health and safety. This includes assessing risks specific to women experiencing menopause, just as with any other employee group with potential vulnerabilities. Formal risk assessments are crucial under health and safety regulations.

Here are some practical ways to support employees:

It's also an equality issue. The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination and mandates respectful treatment based on age and gender. Menopause, a female-specific experience, can't be a reason for negative treatment.

Severe menopausal symptoms can reach the level of a disability under the Equality Act if they create a substantial and long-term impact on daily activities. In such cases, failure to offer reasonable adjustments could lead to a discrimination claim.

The Role of the Manager

Line managers have a critical role to play in creating a supportive environment for women experiencing menopause. Just like any other health concern, these symptoms deserve empathy and understanding. But the benefits go beyond compassion – effective management can lead to a happier, more productive team through boosted morale, reduced turnover as women feel valued during this transition, and lower absenteeism as addressing symptoms improves overall wellbeing.

Early action is key. Sharpen your people management skills to spot signs of menopause affecting work. This allows you to offer timely support, like flexible hours or relevant resources. Building trust is equally important. Open communication creates a safe space for dialogue, where women feel empowered to discuss their needs and get the support they deserve. This fosters a more inclusive and productive environment for everyone.

Tailored Support

We offer a specialist training session designed for all employees, irrespective of job role, age, or gender: "Embracing the Menopause". This educational course empowers your workforce to understand and support colleagues experiencing menopause, fostering a more inclusive and informed work environment. In addition to the course, we also offer a webinar specifically focused on "Menopause in the Workplace". This comprehensive approach equips your team with the knowledge they need to navigate menopause in a professional setting.

Whether you are a manager looking for further understanding and frameworks for your teams, an employee directly experiencing the menopause, or a colleague of someone struggling with their symptoms, get in touch with BHSF for tailored guidance and resources.


¹HR News, “UK loses 150 million working days due to lack of workplace support for women’s health”, https://hrnews.co.uk/uk-loses-150-million-working-days-due-to-lack-of-workplace-support-for-womens-health/

²Peppy Health, “A decade too late? The hidden costs of menopause”, https://peppy.health/blogs/hidden-costs-of-menopause/

person looking through telescope

You might also like