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Menopause factfile

Important things for employers to know about the menopause and how it affects women in the workplace.

The menopause can affect women in lots of different ways. It’s a common view that ‘women of a certain age’ can get a bit hot and flustered and may open a window to cool down or fan themselves with whatever comes to hand, but many people don’t actually know much more than that about it.

What employers should know about the menopause

  • Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce (Professor Jo Brewis, co-author Government Report on Menopause). According to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, almost eight out of 10 of menopausal women are in work.
  • The menopause is a natural part of ageing and is the time in every woman’s life when her periods stop and her ovaries lose their reproductive function. Usually, this occurs between the ages of 40 and 60. In the UK the average age is 51 (NHS). But around one in 100 women experience the menopause before 40 years of age. In exceptional cases women may become menopausal in their 30s, or even younger.
  • Perimenopause can occur for women from their mid-30s (or earlier) and is the period leading up to menopause, and many menopausal symptoms can occur during this time. It is the beginning of a loss of oestrogen and progesterone. Women can experience perimenopause for several years.
  • Once menstruation has ceased for 12 continuous months, a woman is deemed to have hit menopause – and is then considered to be post-menopausal – and the next stage begins with a slightly different label. This is the part when the majority of the oestrogen has almost certainly ‘left the building’ and there are physical effects due to the continuation of the effects of the loss of those hormones.
  • Women make up almost 70 per cent of the local government workforce and almost three quarters of our workforce are 40-64 years old which means that at any time a significant proportion of our workforce will be experiencing symptoms of the menopause.
  • On average, most symptoms last around five to seven years from when a woman’s period ends, however, around one in every 10 women experience them for up to 12 years.
  • Some trans and non-binary employees may also go through menopause due to changes in hormones (often with little support available) and employers should extend offers of support to these staff to be inclusive.
  • There are over 30 recognised symptoms of menopause, which range from from cognitive, physical and psychological, and can include many of the following:
    • hot flushes (sometimes followed by chills)
    • heart palpitations
    • fatigue
    • sleep disturbance
    • dry eye condition
    • muscular aches
    • headaches
    • night sweats
    • skin irritation
    • irritability, anxiety and/or mood disturbances
    • poor concentration
    • the need for more toilet breaks, linked to recurring UTIs.
    • Those who don’t experience the more obvious symptoms will all still undergo physiological changes that will have an impact on their health (e.g. heart disease, bone density and osteoporosis).
  • Symptoms can change over time. For example, hot flushes and night sweats may improve, but women may find other symptoms develop, such as anxiety and joint pain. This means the impact of menopausal symptoms at work may change over time. 
  • Research led by Kings College suggests that low oestrogen levels (symptomatic of menopause) can mean more women are at risk of suffering from long covid.
  • Menopause symptoms can have a significant impact on women in the workplace and can affect their performance. A Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey reported that two thirds (67 per cent) of working women between the ages of 40 and 60 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work. Over a half (53 per cent) of women in the CIPD survey said they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms. A fifth of women said that their menopause symptoms had quite a negative impact on their career progression, while around 20 per cent have considered leaving work due to a lack of support in relation to their menopause symptoms, with a further six per cent having actually given up work.
It’s important to note that the Equality Act 2010 tells us that although menopause is not a protected characteristic, the effects of the symptoms experienced can be disabling for women which means that employers who fail to properly support women could be found to be discriminatory.

Employees experiencing symptoms of menopause may be protected by discrimination laws relating to age, sex disability and gender reassignment. 

Generally, people experiencing menopausal symptoms are women aged 40-60 (although it can happen earlier) therefore any unfavourable treatment or discrimination, whether that is direct or indirect, towards an employee experiencing menopause could amount to sex and/or age discrimination.

See the Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance for employers on how to meet their Equality Act duties for managing menopause in the workplace (February 2024)

Additional resources