Don’t be spooked by the menopause
23 Oct 2023
Published in: Member News
Paycare's guide to the menopause for individuals and employers
Around half of the world’s population will experience the menopause during their lifetime. And yet it’s rarely been a topic of conversation among individuals, and even less so within businesses.
Recently, more and more women have begun speaking out – including several high-profile celebrities – to ensure that the mysteries of the menopause are unveiled, and that others feel less spooked about what might happen to them once their menstrual cycle stops or worried about symptoms they begin experiencing which they may not necessarily realise are caused by this process.
Here, Paycare put together a short guide to some of the questions you may have about the menopause – either as an employer with female staff, or as an individual who hasn’t yet experienced it. We’ve also included some handy tips for businesses looking to become more menopause-aware.
What is the menopause?
The menopause happens when your periods stop because certain hormone levels decrease – it most commonly occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 but can happen earlier, for example if a woman has her ovaries or uterus removed, or undergoes treatment such as chemotherapy.
Women can also experience perimenopause, which is where symptoms have begun but their periods have not yet fully stopped. It’s not considered the full menopause until they haven’t menstruated at all for 12 months.
What are the most common symptoms of the menopause?
- Women may notice a change in their menstrual cycle (irregular periods) before they stop altogether.
- They can also experience mood changes, difficulty concentrating (also known as brain fog), anxiety or low self-esteem.
- One of the most well-known side effects is hot flushes, where the face, neck and chest suddenly feels very warm or cold which can also cause dizziness.
- Other physical symptoms include difficulty sleeping, joint or muscle pain, worsening headaches, weight gain, and dry or itchy skin.
Can the menopause be treated?
There is no ‘cure’ for the menopause, as it’s a natural process the female body goes through. However, there are various options available to women struggling with the symptoms – the most common being Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
As the name suggests, the medication replaces some of the reduced hormones in the body, helping to lessen the side-effects of the menopause. Some women may be unable or unwilling to take HRT, in which case a health professional can talk them through the alternative medications available.
There are also options for the impact on the person’s wellbeing, such as talking therapies, which may help where low self-esteem or mood changes are being experienced.
What can employers do to support women going through the menopause?
In a world where we’re increasingly aware of the links between physical and emotional wellness, and how able we are to work productively and efficiently, the business benefits of supporting employees with health concerns are a huge focus. When you consider the side-effects include lack of sleep, memory problems, headaches and anxiety, it’s easy to see how staff going through the menopause may find it more difficult than usual to be fully present and productive at work.
So, if you’re an employer who recognises the need to support menopausal and perimenopausal women, how can you do this?
Here are our top tips:
- Appoint a Menopause Champion who can collate information to share with staff, and provide a listening ear for anyone with concerns about the symptoms they’re experiencing.
- Invite an expert to lead a training session or webinar for staff, focused on the impact the menopause can have in the workplace (ideally, you’ll want male staff to attend this too so they can understand what their colleagues may be experiencing).
- Look at whether you can alter the physical environment so it’s not worsening the symptoms for anyone – for example, fans being available for those who need them, enabling staff to pop outside and get some fresh air if they’re experiencing a hot flush, and comfortable work stations for those who have muscle or joint pain.
- Can you provide a Health Cash Plan or other wellness resources which will enable staff to, for example, claim cash back on appointments or easily access advice from a doctor?
- Where possible, giving staff the option to work from home or work flexible hours can support them – for example: they may want a slightly later start if they’ve struggled to sleep the night before, or a day working at home might be helpful if they’re feeling anxious.
- Look to include a Menopause Policy within your Workplace Wellbeing offering. This ensures staff know what support is available to them, and reflects the understanding the company has of the impact the menopause can have.
- Do you have Wellbeing Days? If not, they can be a great high-value, low-cost way to give staff some time to themselves to enjoy doing something which will make them feel relaxed, recharged and rejuvenated.
- Talk about it! The reason some women worry about the menopause is because it’s almost been considered taboo until recently. By having conversations about it in the workplace, we normalise the fact that it happens to every woman, and encourage people to speak to their manager, HR or other appropriate person if they need a little extra support.
We’d love to hear from you if you’ve implemented a particularly successful Menopause Policy or undertaken other changes which have supported those experiencing the menopause in your workplace – do comment on our social media posts and share your own top tips so everyone can benefit from them!
Paycare’s mission is to support the health and happiness of the UK through a range of Health Cash Plans designed to ease financial pressure and promote a proactive approach to wellbeing.
As a not-for-profit, we’ve been investing in our communities since 1874, so you can rest assured you’re not only supporting yourself and your family – you’re also positively impacting the health and happiness of others too. Find out more about us at www.paycare.org.
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