The case for employers having a Menopause Policy was raised again this week in Channel 4’s documentary ‘Sex, Mind and the Menopause’ presented by Davina McCall. Research carried out by Channel 4 and supported by the Fawcett Society found that:
- 10% women who worked during the menopause have left a job due to their symptoms.
- 80% women say their employer hasn’t shared information, trained staff, or put in place a menopause absence policy.
- 44% of women said their ability to work had been affected, comprising 18% of women who said that their symptoms currently affected their ability to do their jobs,
and 26% in the past.
- 61% said that they had lost motivation at work due to their symptoms, and
- 52% said they had lost confidence.
My guests on the Hot Women Rock Radio Show last week, Hannah Caulfield and Benji Evans, have been actively involved in creating and implementing a menopause policy at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS). Hannah is a Station Manager and the Chair of the Women’s Network ‘Limitless’. Benji is Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, a role he has held since 2019.
They shared with me the steps CFRS took to create an effective menopause policy.
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service Menopause Journey
“Our menopause journey was mainly driven by our women’s network which is called ‘Limitless’. There was also a little bit maybe selfishness in terms of me looking at my own future in the Fire Service. I’ve got to work until I’m 60, so how is it going to affect me? And what’s the support level going to be?
The more I read about the menopause the more concerned I became. I’m not suggesting that I’m going to have a bad menopause, but if it did how would it be, how would I would be perceived and how would I be supported. Those are the sorts of things I really wanted to look at just to make sure that it was going to be okay.
Although it sounds selfish it’s actually not. That is what our networks for. It’s about identifying and anticipating barriers and then addressing them, which is exactly what we’ve done. It’s going to benefit everybody in our fire rescue service because it’s not just for those who are going to experience perimenopause or menopause, it is actually going to support all of our colleagues because we all have somebody who’s going to have a menopausal experience.
It was quite difficult initially to get people to get involved with the working group, and I think it was just because people weren’t used to getting out there and talking about it. They did not necessarily want to disclose that much about it. I suppose there was perception that if you put your hand up you were actually saying, ‘I’m going through it.’
There are some people in the service who are in the early 20s who have not even thought or considered it. But others could see the value it’s going to add for those people who are either in the situation or have gone through it, I think they were just relieved that it was finally on the table, that is going to be addressed. They understood that we’re going to look at different ways to support people and really get an acknowledgement around the fact that it could have some potential issues.”
“I think well there’s an open, transparent culture within Cheshire Fire and a very much growth mindset in looking into how we can always improve. The majority of our operational staff and firefighters are male who will not have experienced those symptoms.
Female representation in the build up to developing our policy was still quite low. The fact that the women’s network raised it in the first instance started that conversation.
Whereas it wouldn’t have organically happened in the predominantly a male dominated team, it’s great that we’ve got these sounding boards through the women’s networks to discuss it.”
“There was a little bit of debate around whether it should be a menopause policy or guidance. We thought that there was benefit in having it in a policy because primarily that’s the way that we work. It also gives those guidelines and the responsibilities for each individual, whether it be their individual experience or whether it’s a line manager. So everybody is really clear about their responsibilities in terms of actually getting it to to come to fruition.
We set up a working group which consisted of women with different experiences, different ages, and different roles within the service. The effect it could have on somebody who works in an office would be different to somebody who’s on a fire truck. So, it was really important for us to get that sort of diversity into the group.
And then we had some meetings where we would discuss what it was that we wanted to come out of the menopause policy. We looked at all the different symptoms, so what we could physically do anything about. In most cases it is a case of going to see a medical practitioner, but there were some practical realities that we could change and some reasonable adjustments that we could introduce. There’s no reason not to make those adjustments. None of them are particularly difficult.
HR wrote the policy and are the policy holders. Then we carried out consultation with lots of different people like health and safety, occupational health, equality and diversity, and the trade unions. The final sign off was with the Senior Management Team.
It took a long time to get there, but we did and I’m so glad we have”
“After we launched the policy, we needed to make sure that we brought it to life. The first step was to communicate to our staff, and educate all the managers around the procedures within the policy. We provide some basic training for staff and more advanced training for for our managers.
In addition to that, we offered some advanced training around menopause to a cross-section of menopause champions. We’ve got representatives from various departments, with different levels of experience, some have gone through menopause and some haven’t yet, and some people generally just have an interest. It’s a really good group of people, that have worked together to share sources.
What the Menopause Champions are essentially offering is some basic advice and guidance within the boundaries of that role and signpost people to further information. The Menopause Champions have been a real success.”
Top Tips to Support Employees at Menopause in the Workplace
- Find out what support women employees would find most useful. You can do that by setting up a women’s support network or carrying out a staff survey.
- Identify and anticipate any barriers to putting support in place. Take action to address them. Some employees may be reluctant to talk about the subject and get engaged.
- Identify the benefits for everyone from providing menopause support. It is not only about women in their 40s and 50s, it can also support younger women, male colleagues and partners.
- Create an open and transparent culture that enables everyone to talk about the subject without embarrassment.
- Set up a diverse working group if you are going to put a menopause policy in place. Make sure it represents people of different ages and carrying out the full range of roles within the organisation. Include Staff Networks, Trade Union and Health and Safety representatives.
- A menopause policy is helpful in setting out the responsibilities for each individual and role so that everybody is clear about what is expected from them.
- Look at the practical implications of menopause symptoms on workplace performance and how you can address them
- Make your Menopause Policy a ‘live document’ by updating it in response to new situations and new adjustments.
- Communicate the Menopause Policy to staff and provide training for staff and managers.
- Appoint Menopause Champions to provide easy access to menopause resources for employees.
If you need support in developing or implementing a Menopause Policy contact Pat Duckworth to discuss your requirements.