Over two in five uncomfortable talking about menopause at work

New research has revealed that that despite employers focusing on menopause, there’s still work to do to remove the stigma associated with menopause in the workplace. According to Aviva’s Working Lives campaign, eight in ten (81%) employers surveyed think they would do well at supporting employees with menopause in the workplace. Nearly three quarters (74%) of employers said they felt equipped to support employees with menopause symptoms. Under half (44%) have actively supported a colleague and of those almost nine in ten (89%) felt they had done well.

Almost three quarters (72%) of employees have sought help for menopause symptoms but only a small proportion of those sought help through their work (6%), compared to a quarter (25%) who have spoken to friends and/or family members. Under half (45%) sought help from a GP, and a similar number (39%) did their own research online and / or through TV programmes.

More than two in five (42%) employees surveyed would be uncomfortable talking to anyone at work about menopause. Over half (55%) of employees said that they would not feel comfortable talking to their manager and just over 1 in 7 (15%) said they had not sought support from their manager because they would be embarrassed.

Over 2 in 5 (46%) of employees have taken time off for menopause symptoms. However, nearly 3 in 10 (29%) of these did not state the reason for their absence and/or gave another reason for their absence. The main symptoms for taking time off include stress and anxiety (29%), migraine (26%), exhaustion (26%) and heavy periods (25%). 

Dr Subashini M, Medical Director, Aviva UK Health says: “With over half of employers surveyed saying they offer menopause support and more than two thirds extending that support to family members, it’s clear that positive changes are being made to how menopause is supported in the workplace

“However, our Working Lives research highlights worrying behaviours which may impact employers’ abilities to measure the true impact of menopause on sickness absence in their workplace. It’s concerning to see that nearly three in ten employees who’ve taken time off because of menopause symptoms, don’t feel that they can give the real reason for their absence. While employers are working hard to foster a more inclusive workplace, it’s apparent that stigmas still exist.”

As well as highlighting some worrying behaviours, the research offered useful insight into what employers could do to improve the situation.

Almost three quarters (71%) of employees surveyed agreed that they would feel more comfortable speaking to female colleagues and 65% said they would prefer to speak to someone of a similar age. Just over half (52%) said they would be more comfortable speaking to someone who understands their culture.

Flexible working (35%) and wellbeing support (28%) topped employees’ wish lists when it came to other support employers could provide in relation to menopause.

Over a fifth (21%) of employees said they wanted better education about menopause for the whole workforce, the ability to speak to someone in confidence (22%), and a culture that encouraged people to speak more openly about menopause in the workplace (21%).  Dr Subashini M continued: “The research findings demonstrate the importance of building a culture of trust that encourages open and honest conversations about menopause and developing a support strategy that considers employee’s individual needs.  Only then will all parties reap the benefits.”