|Note: Many trans and non-binary individuals can experience menopause as well as cisgender women. Although we’ll be using the word ‘women’ throughout this article, we acknowledge that menopause is experienced across different gender identities. You can also implement the best practices we recommend as a step toward creating a trans-inclusive workplace.|
Menopause can take a huge toll on women’s physical and mental health, with some taking time off work or even leaving their jobs.
Additionally, this group of workers is often on the receiving end of bias, harassment, and opposition to their management styles and find it harder than younger people of any age to access work in the first place.
In this piece, we’ll look at some of the challenges faced by menopausal women, and how you can support them and ensure your hiring and retention efforts don’t rule them out.
By taking the lead in supporting menopausal women, you can make this life phase easier to cope with and set an example to other companies.
Table of contents
✅ Hire, retain, and support diverse talent. Download the 2022 State of Skills-Based Hiring report.
Menopausal taboo at work
Despite being a natural and inevitable part of life for many people, menopause is still considered a taboo subject in many workplaces. Many individuals feel uncomfortable discussing their symptoms with their coworkers or managers and don’t seek support even when they’re struggling to cope at work.
Additionally, some women in senior positions are hesitant to discuss menopause at work due to fears of being perceived as less competent.
As a result, women may struggle to manage their menopause symptoms in the workplace, which can lead to increased stress levels and lower productivity. In fact, one in three women say that menopause negatively impacts work performance.
“The brain fog was the most distressing thing. I couldn’t start [tasks,] I couldn’t finish things, I couldn’t remember anything. And I remember distinctly thinking, ‘if I have to get a job now, other than a freelance job…nobody would employ me.’”– Liz Jones, independent organization development consultant and coach.
But what does the law say about the rights of menopausal people in employment?
Legal rights for menopausal individuals
There are currently no laws in the US, UK, or EU that specifically protect the rights of menopausal individuals in the workplace. However, legislation designed to prevent other forms of discrimination offers some support.
- In the US, women experiencing menopause can be protected from discrimination under laws that cover age discrimination, civil rights, and medical leave.
- In the UK, menopausal employees are protected against discrimination under policies such as the Equality Act of 2010. In 2021 and 2022, a proposal to make menopause a protected characteristic under this act was rejected, leading MP Caroline Nokes to question the government’s commitment to menopausal women.
- Similarly in the EU, no country currently has targeted policies addressing the needs of menopausal workers. In 2022, the issue of menopause at work was discussed at the European Parliament, but no beneficial conclusion was reached. Instead, this group of workers has to rely on laws designed to protect women, older workers, and those with health problems.
While some of these policies can protect menopausal people from discrimination, others still choose to leave the workforce of their own accord, especially if they don’t feel psychologically safe enough to ask for support.
A 2022 study found that 20% of women have left or have considered leaving their jobs due to menopause symptoms, while 18% have not pursued a promotion because of them.
So it’s important to ensure that the concern isn’t just that your people are protected against discrimination, but how you can best support them at work.
Let’s take a look at what positive action you can take, from hiring to retaining and rewarding your people.
Supporting menopausal women in the hiring process
To create a truly inclusive workplace, and tap into the decades of invaluable experience and dedication of older employees, start with your hiring practices.
Here’s how you can improve D&I and transform your business for menopausal women one step at a time:
1. Make menopause support part of your D&I strategy and make it visible
Currently, it’s not very common to see menopause support included in company D&I strategies. However, it’s an important first step toward attracting older employees, showing your commitment to D&I, and providing clarity and guidance for existing staff and leaders.
An explicit policy also helps prevent unintentional discrimination and exclusion by setting out clear expectations. For example, you can include:
- A definition of menopause: Begin by providing a clear definition of what menopause is, its symptoms, and how it can affect individuals. This will help to raise awareness and ensure that all employees understand how menopause impacts their colleagues.
- Roles and responsibilities: Outline the expectations of different stakeholders in implementing the menopause support policy, including leaders, managers, HR, and employees. This helps ensure everyone is clear on their responsibilities and that the policy is implemented effectively.
- Support and resources: Specify the support and resources that will be made available to employees experiencing menopausal symptoms, including flexible working arrangements, access to health and well-being services, and employee assistance programs. This lets potential employees feel included from the outset.
- Confidentiality: Speaking openly about menopause at work and breaking the taboo is crucial. It creates a culture of openness and helps normalize the conversation. But make sure that your policy includes provisions for confidentiality, so that employees feel comfortable trusting you with their menopause symptoms and seeking support without fear of stigma or discrimination.
- Training and awareness: What educational programs does your company provide for managers and colleagues? Defining this early on helps increase understanding and empathy toward menopause.
Finally, be mindful that the terminology and imagery used on your website, including your careers page, and within internal communications promotes inclusion and empathy.
|Don’t forget: Regularly review and evaluate the effectiveness of your policy to make sure it’s meeting the needs of menopausal employees and is aligned with your organization’s broader D&I strategy.|
2. Use blind resumes
The practice of using blind resumes has been championed by UK firms like Clifford Chance to lead fairer, more objective hiring practices. Since 2013, this firm has been using blind resumes for its graduate training program to fairly benchmark candidates based on skills-based criteria over academic requirements.
Taking gender and age out of the equation when you’re assessing applicants can help mitigate the conscious or unconscious bias of hiring managers.
So, how can you roll out blind resumes in your hiring process?
- Determine what criteria your hiring teams need and don’t need to see. For example, a list of existing and transferable skills is helpful, while a person’s gender and age aren’t.
- Remove identifying information like name, address, age, and gender from resumes. You can do this manually or use dedicated software like Entelo.
- Use a standardized format that all applicants must follow to ensure consistency. This template can automatically exclude information like age and gender if you don’t want to do it yourself manually. This can also help eliminate biases based on resume style or layout.
- If your budget is limited, you can export candidate information into a Google Sheet and delete or hide certain columns, like names and addresses, to ensure a blind evaluation.
- Train your interviewers to avoid asking questions that could reveal personal information about the applicant. Encourage them to focus on the applicant’s qualifications and suitability for the role.
Finally, remember to communicate the blind resume process along with all its steps to applicants to ensure transparency and build trust in the hiring process.
3. Write inclusive job ads
Writing inclusive job postings is one of the best ways to make people of all ages feel more comfortable and safe in your organization. Inclusive language creates a welcoming and non-discriminatory environment for all job applicants, regardless of what stage they are in life.
To do that:
- Include a D&I statement in all job postings to emphasize your organization’s inclusive hiring policy and that you especially welcome applicants from all ages and backgrounds. Make sure to mention your company’s menopause support in the job ad.
- Avoid using gender-coded words like strong, assertive, or driven.
- Stay away from language that reinforces negative stereotypes or connotations associated with age, such as “young and dynamic” or “digital native.” Instead, use inclusive language that emphasizes the importance of diverse perspectives and experiences.
- Keep it technically simple. If the applicant needs exceptional technical and software skills to navigate your job posting, then it may be more difficult for older individuals to apply to your position easily.
|Top tip: Use tools like Textio or other alternatives to make sure your job ads use inclusive language.|
4. Use skills-based hiring
Competency-based hiring practices level the playing field and give every applicant a fair chance from the start, regardless of their age or gender. According to our
2022 State of Skills-based Hiring report, 91% of employers who used skills-based hiring saw an increase in diversity, and 92.7% reduced the number of mis-hires.
This recruitment method is better for your candidates too because it places them in the right roles, helps you know how to support them best, and demonstrates your commitment to building a people-centric organization. In fact, we found that 72.1% of the employees hired based on their skills are happier, leading to increased retention rates.
When rolling out skills-based hiring, remember to focus on transferable skills. People in their 40s and 50s have a wealth of experience and knowledge that can be transferred to a new role or industry. Additionally, make sure the application process doesn’t include age-related questions or requirements that could discourage menopausal women from applying.
|Check out our guide to “seven best practices to make your company more diverse and inclusive” for more tips on how to meet your D&I goals.|
Keep in mind that this recruitment approach is at the top of the hiring funnel and sets you up for a fairer, more objective hiring process. To continue building a workplace where menopausal individuals feel supported, you need to take some additional steps.
Supporting menopausal women at work
Almost 65% of women in the US report that their workplace doesn’t offer any accommodations for menopause symptoms. Creating a supportive environment at work is key to retaining the 17% of women who might otherwise quit, or consider quitting, their jobs.
“I’d been working as a VP of a tech company and lots of days I wasn’t myself and could barely make it into work. In the end, I told two of the senior women in my organization what was happening. And they were great and gave me the support I needed.” – Anonymous source
Here are some steps you can take to keep your talent:
1. Establish a menopause policy
An inclusive policy is the first step to building a people-first organization and culture. To be truly effective, it should be another part of your D&I policy, and embedded in the pillars of your company, just like learning and development would be.
Within your policy:
- Highlight the protocol and company processes for menopausal employees and outline how their managers, coworkers, and other staff can support them.
- Clearly state your company’s commitment to providing a supportive work environment for all employees, including menopausal individuals.
- Outline the types of support that you can offer, such as counseling, flexible or reduced work arrangements, time off for medical appointments, paid menopause leave, and insurance coverage.
- Define what your people need to do to receive support. For example, how to take days off, how to apply for paid menopause leave, or even how to have conversations about bias with leadership.
- Develop a process for training managers and coworkers on how to support menopausal workers, and how to have these conversations with them.
|Top tip: Job sharing can be a great way for older employees to scale back their hours and have more flexibility while still keeping their position.|
2. Create a supportive environment
The wide range of negative menopause symptoms can leave anyone feeling exhausted and vulnerable. A supportive environment is key to better employee health and performance.
For example, menopausal employees might have to take time off work or take more breaks to manage their symptoms. Additionally, night sweats can lead to poor sleep quality which further exacerbates fatigue. Providing dedicated mental health days, additional sick days, and flexible work options can go a long way to supporting this group of workers.
Liz also stresses the importance of creating support groups to help employees experiencing menopause symptoms. She finds having other people to talk to, or even have coffee with once a month, can be a transformative experience.
Finally, while flexibility and temperature controls are ranked highly on the list of things you can do, offering kindness and being aware of what your employee is going through is also crucial. So learn, and teach your managers, to speak and listen sensitively and find ways to offer helpful resources.
3. Keep an eye out for unconscious bias (and open discrimination)
“These unrelenting symptoms seriously impacted my career. I was fortunate to have a female manager who allowed me to step outside to deal with a hot flash when needed. As nice as this was [at my previous job,] I didn’t want to be labeled, discriminated against, or suffer any negative consequences so I tried to hide my symptoms, keep my head down, and suffered quietly and alone.” – Wendy Connors, merchandise team lead at Lowe’s
Unfortunately, employees who experience perimenopause and menopause can experience both microaggressions and outright discrimination in some workplaces, from missing out on promotions and getting laid off to dismissive comments and hurtful stereotyping.
Firstly, it’s essential to provide education and training to all employees on what menopause is, its variety of symptoms, and how they can support their colleagues going through this transition.
You should also establish a zero-tolerance policy for any form of discrimination, including microaggressions, and encourage employees to report any incidents of discrimination they witness or experience. Remember for that to be effective, you first need to create psychological safety in your organization so your people feel comfortable speaking up without fearing negative consequences.
Additionally, monitor employee engagement and performance to ensure that these individuals aren’t being unfairly discriminated against due to ageist or sexist stereotypes. You can appoint a third-party professional from your HR department or run controls on performance reviews and make sure they’re not biased.
Finally, review your HR policies regularly to ensure that they’re not discriminatory towards menopausal individuals. For example, by evaluating policies related to dress codes, performance evaluations, and promotions, you can ensure they are inclusive and unbiased.
4. Offer health benefits
Offering physical and mental health care supports a diverse and inclusive workplace culture that values the health and well-being of all employees. It also helps to retain valuable talent and ensures that employees feel supported during this important life transition.
One way to do that is by providing access to comprehensive health insurance plans that cover menopause-related treatments, such as hormone replacement therapy and counseling services. If you have an in-person team, you can also include fans or temperature-controlled workspaces to alleviate hot flashes.
Finally, give your people access to healthcare professionals who can offer advice on managing symptoms, as well as information on local support groups and other resources.
Breaking down the menopause stigma
While many organizations around the world have made strides toward achieving their diversity and inclusion goals, support for menopausal employees still lags behind. Many people struggle with managing their menopause symptoms at work, which in turn hurts their productivity, satisfaction, and overall well-being. Additionally, there are currently no policies that specifically protect the rights of menopausal individuals.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The road might seem daunting, but by taking that first step you’re already closer than you were before.
“Menopause can be a challenging experience for women, especially those who are managing a career. As a leader, it’s important to create a supportive workplace environment that acknowledges and accommodates the needs of women going through menopause. By doing so, we can ensure that they’re empowered to continue to contribute their best work, even during this transitional period of their lives.” – Jeniffer Perri, chief executive officer of SHERO Divorce & Empowerment Coaching
That’s why, in this piece, we’ve looked at some ways you can make your company a safer, more supportive place to work for menopausal individuals – from creating a menopause policy and inclusive job ads to designing a supportive environment and offering comprehensive healthcare benefits.
We’ve also reviewed the benefits of using skills-based hiring and how this unbiased recruitment method can give applicants from a wide range of backgrounds a fairer experience. By adopting these steps within your organization and creating a more open and inclusive workplace culture, you can better support individuals going through menopause and promote a more equitable and productive workplace.
|Want a fairer way to hire, retain, and support diverse talent? Find out how skills-based hiring gives you an objective way to hire the best people with the right skills and meet your D&I goals. Download the 2022 State of Skills-Based Hiring report to learn more|
- “Menopause in the workplace report 2022.” Elektra Health. Accessed April 24, 2023. https://www.elektrahealth.com/workplacemenopausesurvey
- “Women in the workplace 2022.” Women in the workplace. Accessed April 24, 2023. https://womenintheworkplace.com/#pipeline-data
- “The Authority Gap: Why women are still taken less seriously than men.” Forbes. Accessed April 24, 2023. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michelleking/2021/10/26/the-authority-gap-why-women-are-still-taken-less-seriously-than-men/
- “UK menopause law change rejected as it ‘could discriminate against men’.” The Guardian. Accessed April 24, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/jan/24/menopause-law-equalities-act-uk-change-rejected
- “Biote women in the workplace survey.” Biote. Accessed April 24, 2023. https://biote.com/learning-center/biote-women-in-the-workplace-survey