Benefits of Health & Her

How to Talk to Your Manager About Menopause

If you are struggling to cope with perimenopause or menopause symptoms at work, you are not alone. 5.1 million women[1] in UK workplaces are menopausal – but one in ten leave work as a result of struggling with menopause symptoms[2]. From brain fog to anxiety and mood swings, there’s a range of emotional and cognitive issues[3] that can affect your productivity and interpersonal relationships at work during menopause.

By talking to your manager about your menopause symptoms, you can get the support you need to cope and stay happy and focused at work throughout your menopause transition.

Why is it a good idea to tell your manager that you’re menopausal?

“We spend so much time in work, so it’s important that as a woman you are happy and thriving – staying connected, sharing and not blocking people,” says June Potts, menopause business consultant and trainer.

You have a legal right under the Equality Act not to be discriminated against because of your gender and age. As a result, some organisations are starting to put in place menopause at work policies, and managers are being trained to support those going through menopause. Already, 24% of UK employers have a menopause policy[4], and the Women and Equalities Committee is looking into whether such policies should become mandatory.

Policy or no policy, many employers are willing and able to support women to manage menopause at work. “They are offering flexible working, more breaks throughout the day – it all depends on the type of workplace it is, and of course whether or not you can work from home,” says June.

Find out how we can help you improve menopause support in your organisation.

Is it normal to feel nervous about talking about menopause at work?

Many women are reluctant to talk about menopause at work because it’s seen as something private. “Research suggests that women don’t want to disclose their menopausal status to a male, and especially not a man in a leadership position,” says June. “There’s a lot of negative rhetoric around menopause – it’s been this big secret our mothers never spoke about.” But June is convinced that this is changing. “I think menopause is on the same change trajectory as mental health; we’re just seven or eight years behind. A lot of millennials are on the cusp of menopause now, and they’re more tech-savvy, more likely to use apps and research their symptoms,” she says.

What to consider when talking to your manager about menopause – our top tips:

1. Line manager, HR or occupational health – decide who you want to speak to

It’s ultimately up to you whether you raise the issue with your line manager first or go to HR or occupational health directly, depending on what you feel most comfortable with and how your workplace is structured. According to June, women mainly choose to speak to their line manager if they’re of a similar age and female, and they trust them fully. “In reality though, it’s often just women’s preconceived ideas that men wouldn’t understand, when in fact many of them are fantastic menopause advocates. It is my experience that men are curious, ask questions and want to understand,” she adds.

 

2. Ask for a private meeting – and be fully transparent

“If you’re comfortable talking to your line manager in the first place, ask for a private meeting or utilise a one-to-one. This is not a conversation for you to raise in your performance review,” stresses June. It is, however, argued that menopause should be a consideration for line managers if an employee is no longer performing. “While menopause is a private matter, it’s recommended that you speak openly and are transparent about the situation, and once your employer understands they can provide the support upfront.

 

3. Prepare what you are going to say – and be constructive

Make sure to prepare what you are going to say, including not just how your symptoms are affecting your performance at work, but also what solutions you think could help you. Our confident conversation framework is a good place to start.

 

4. Remember that your employer has a duty of care

Under the Health at Work Act 1974, all employers must look after the health and safety of their employees. But for your needs to be met, you need to inform your employer what they are. “Women need to understand that it’s a two-way conversation,” says June. “You need to tell your employer so that they can help you – perhaps by offering short-term changes to your hours, reserved seating near a window, access to water, toilets nearby and sanitary wear.”

 

5. Suggest regular check-ins

Potts recommends scheduling regular check-ins with your line manager to review any support and potential changes to your needs. “On average, menopause transition lasts seven years[5], and symptoms will change regularly as you transition through perimenopause, menopause and eventually post-menopause,” she explains. “This means that the support you get from the workplace might need to be adjusted.”

 

6. Eyes on the prize: getting support can help you to stay on your career track

Unfortunately, Potts has noticed a trending pattern as women reach the age of 50. “Women don’t go for promotions, which contributes to the gender pay gap, while others can be made redundant, reduce their hours or leave the workplace altogether. This is all the more reason to tell someone about your symptoms and get the support you need because it means that you can stay on your career track,” she says. “Otherwise, there’s the risk that it’ll become a vicious cycle: that women don’t disclose, they don’t get the support they need, and then they leave.”

 

What you could request to help you cope with menopause symptoms at work

What practical changes will help you depends on the symptoms you’re struggling with, but many women find some or all of these supports beneficial:

  • Flexible working to allow you to work when you feel most able
  • Regular breaks during the day to make sure you have a chance to reset mentally or freshen up
  • The right to work from home where you can open a window, nap during lunchtime, and more easily manage heavy periods and flooding
  • Establishing menopause support groups within the organisation
  • Access to a menopause career coach or other healthcare practitioner with menopause expertise

 

Here’s more information and advice on managing menopause in the workplace. A symptom tracking app like the Health & Her app, available for free on iOS and Android, can also be of great help.

If you want advice on your symptoms and how to manage your menopause transition, make an appointment to speak to a menopause specialist GP.

 

 

[1] House of Commons research briefing, June 2021: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cdp-2021-0078/

[2] Menopause and the Workplace, The Fawcett Society, 2022.

[3] https://healthandher.com/expert-advice/brain-fog/menopause-mood-changes-and-brain-fog-the-surprising-cognitive-and-psychological-symptoms/

[4] CIPD, 2021: https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/cipd-submission-to-appg-for-the-menopause-call-for-evidence_tcm18-101509.pdf

[5] British Menopause Society, Management of the Menopause, sixth edition, Hillard et al. 2017