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 8 out of 10 of menopausal women are in work.
  • The menopause a natural time 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 45 and 55. In the UK the average age is 51 (NHS). But around one in 100 women experience the menopause before 40 years of age. In a few exceptional cases women may become menopausal in their 30s, or even younger.
  • Peri-menopause can occur for women from their mid-30s (or earlier) and is the period leading up to menopause. It is the beginning of a loss of oestrogen and progesterone. Women experience peri-menopause for several years. Once menstruation has ceased for 12 continuous months a women 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.
  • It’s estimated that there are around 13 million women who are currently peri or menopausal in the UK (Wellbeing of Women) – that’s equal to one third of the entire UK female population.
  • Whilst a minority of women will experience little or no menopausal symptoms, a significant number will experience debilitating symptoms that can last up to 15 years.
  • Symptoms can include:
    • hot flushes
    • palpitations
    • fatigue
    • sleep disturbance
    • night sweats
    • skin irritation
    • irritability and/or mood disturbances
    • poor concentration
    • the need for more toilet breaks.
  • These symptoms can have a significant impact on women in the workplace and can affect their performance. A recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey reported that three out of five (59 per cent) working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work. Nearly a third (30 per cent) of women in the CIPD survey said they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms and, according to the Wellbeing of Women survey in 2016, one in four women even considered leaving their jobs because of the impact of their symptoms in the workplace.
  • The menopause can also increase women’s risk of developing certain other health problems, such as weak bones (osteoporosis).
It’s important to note that the Equality Act 2010 tells us that although the menopause is not an illness or disability, 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.