Should Companies Have A Menopause And Menstrual Policy?

24th Oct 2022

October 18th 2022 marked World Menopause Day, a day held to raise awareness around menopause and the support available to help improve women’s health and well-being. 

This is a taboo topic, alongside period talk, and is often overlooked in the workplace, but it shouldn’t be. 

Why periods and menopause should be spoken about at work

The hormonal changes every woman will have to undergo at some point in life can be a daunting and emotional journey impacting all areas of life, including work.

Although there is no legal requirement to have a menopause policy in place to protect employees experiencing symptoms, it’s something to be highly considered since symptoms can affect performance at work. 

Likewise, companies are not obligated to have a menstrual policy or offer menstrual leave, despite it being something most women will regularly experience every month. According to Bupa, 1-5 live with heavy periods, and others work through the pain. Not everyone can work through symptoms, with 45% of women taking time off due to heavy periods. 

Companies that offer workplace support are likely to see better employee retention, improved working relationships and enhanced productivity. 

Why is menopause a workplace issue?

Women going through peri-menopause and menopause may have symptoms including lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, anxiety and sadness. 

Bupa also highlights that almost 4 million working women in Britain are aged between 45 and 55, and women over 50 represent the fastest-growing section of the workforce. Nearly half of them feel they couldn’t tell their workplace that they need to take a day off because of menopause. Furthermore, 1 in 4 women have left jobs due to feeling unwell because of menopause.

The symptoms women might experience during their period can vary with each individual; there might be someone who has a mild level of pain and discomfort but, for others, this can be more severe. And for those with Endometriosis, 4 in 10 women have this fear losing their job because of it. 

We’ve spoken to some of the ladies at Flexa to hear more about their experiences and how their monthly cycle affects them and their work:

I sometimes get pains so bad I curl up in bed and can’t move. I once left the office as I was having extreme pains and passed out in the bath once I got home. I have to carry my ovira around with me everywhere I go. When I work at home, I don’t stress about being embarrassed about it or stress about asking to go home and feeling like I have to justify my pain. I can work how I’m comfortable at home when I’m on my period, usually from bed, and it’s made a world of difference” - Aqua Zumaraite.

“The impact of my period varies from month to month but, most months, I experience severe pain for up to a week, making it difficult to leave my flat and function normally. Having the flexibility to decide on a day-to-day basis whether I want to go into the office or not means I don't need to worry about it or try and second-guess how bad things are going to be in advance, which is great because I'm not a fortune-teller!” - Luisa Callander

I have to strap a hot water bottle to my stomach, so it's helpful not to have to be in an office while doing that” - Ailish McLaughlin

"My cycle isn't trackable because of endo/PCOS. It's completely out of control. I go months without a period and then I'll be stuck down for 5/6 weeks at a time with debilitating pains, being unable to stand up, sickness, nosebleeds and menorrhagia - usually ending up in A&E. Since working flexibly my sickness days have gone down from 40+ days a year to maybe 5/6 days" - Fliss Morse

These are just the answers from a small sample, which goes to show the impact and importance of raising awareness and understanding. 

What can employers do to support periods and menopause at work?

Employers can create additional policies to help support their employees, whether it be offering additional leave or flexible working.

Flexible working allows employees to work from home during days when they might not be feeling their best - for reasons such as being on your period, having menopausal symptoms, or facing other private struggles you may not be comfortable discussing with your employer. 

Slack recently rolled out their ‘not feeling 100%’ status, surprisingly causing some controversy, but many people are in favour. Companies need to recognise that employees are human beings, we all have off days, and that’s okay. The main focus should be the bigger picture which focuses on an output-driven work culture, as opposed to how and where you work. 

Recently, hedgehog lab, launched their very own menopause policy to support the work to being a more diverse and inclusive employer. We spoke with People and Culture Lead - Catherine Roberts, to find out more.

 “We wanted to write the policy and make resources available to help those in the menopause, and educate those of us who may have menopausal colleagues. We are so proud to have such a diverse team here at Hedgehog Lab, and we understand that with diversity comes certain challenges as we all reach different stages of life.”

In summary, lack of understanding and awareness play a key role. With more open discussions and shedding light on fundamental issues such as this, we can help to get one step closer to creating change.