Women across the UK are seeing their careers cut short due to a lack of menopause support in the workplace, says The Women’s Organisation in Liverpool. Jennie Lewis reports
Women across the UK at the peak of their careers are leaving their jobs in alarming numbers because of a lack of employer support during their menopause.
As people across the world mark World Menopause Day, shocking figures reveal the huge cost to the economy of experienced women having to quit their jobs prematurely. Too many feel they simply have no choice because there is no help available.
This, says Germaine Fryer, head of engagement and marketing at The Women’s Organisation in Liverpool, demonstrates why it is imperative employers put in place effective policies and mechanisms to support women through what is a difficult and often debilitating period in their lives.
“What is frustrating about this is how simple it is to fix,” said Germaine. “It isn’t like the menopause is a new concept. It has always been part of the natural cycle of women’s lives. It isn’t a mystery.
“We say to employers: learn about it, put a policy in place, support your staff. In return you’ll keep individuals who are critical to your business rather than losing them altogether.”
Around 4m women in the UK workforce are currently in the peak menopause age, as defined by the NHS (aged 45 to 55). This coincides with the period when many women are at the apex of their careers.
They are often in senior roles and their amassed experience and institutional knowledge is irreplaceable to their employer. These women are key drivers of growth and productivity.
A survey of working age women in the UK conducted by Censuswide and commissioned by Bupa Health Clinics indicated that as many as 900,000 people may have left their jobs due to the menopause.
“Women who have taken long-term absence from work because of menopause, take an average of 32 weeks’, to accommodate their symptoms which range from depression, anxiety, hot flashes, and mood swings,” the study reported.
Earlier in 2022, University College London academics Alice Sullivan and Alex Bryson, looked to dig deeper into the topic for which there is worryingly little in-depth research. They claim their study was the first to estimate the effects of early menopause and menopause symptoms on women’s employment and full-time employment rates.
The study found early onset of menopause (before age 45) reduces months spent in employment by 9 percentage points once women enter their 50s, compared with women who do not experience early menopause.
This is equivalent to the loss of around four months’ employment among women in their early 50s. However, early menopause is not associated with a difference in full-time employment rates.
Their report said: “The number of menopause symptoms women face as they approach age 50 is associated with lower employment rates: each additional symptom lowers employment rates and full-time employment rates by around half a percentage point.”
It went on: “Our calculations suggest that a conservative estimate of the cost of early menopause for a woman is £20,000, while the cost of suffering an average level of menopause symptoms is £10,000. These are ballpark base-line estimates.”
And they concluded: “Having identified the size and extent of the problem, government and employers should consider steps that could be taken to ameliorate the problems women face in their working lives due to the menopause.”
Another survey, of 2,000 employees and 500 business owners, carried out by Benenden Health found 23% of women who have been unwell as a result of the menopause have left their jobs. This despite the fact that nearly all businesses polled (95%) recognised that symptoms negatively impact work.
The poll also found that, of the individuals who have suffered ill-health as a result of the menopause, 18% said they were not given a pay rise or promotion and 13% said they had to go through a disciplinary procedure.
Germaine added: “It beggars belief that capable and highly-skilled women are finding themselves side-lined and, in many cases, being forced to leave their jobs because of a complete lack of understanding.
“One of the positives to come out of the pandemic has been a greater awareness among employers on the importance of wellbeing and mental health among their staff – and the impact this has on productivity and the bottom line. Yet menopause is still an area where ignorance reigns.
“We urge policy change that means that women’s careers are no longer hampered by the effects of menopause, and which would mean that women can continue to make their important combined contribution to the UK economy for longer.
“Employers needn’t remain in the dark on this. There are now multiple organisations in the UK that can offer policy guidance and training on supporting employees who are dealing with the menopause. It isn’t only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”
The Women’s Organisation is the UK’s largest developer and deliverer of employment and enterprise training for women, providing a range of services focused on helping women to become “economically active and empowered”.
It offers a number of programmes designed to help women who find themselves at a career crossroads. They provide advice, support, coaching and development to help kick-start a stalled career. For more information call 0151 706 8111 or email email@example.com