The menopause affects tens of thousands of working women each year – yet just 22% disclose it to their employer, many fearful of discrimination or lack of understanding. We explore the financial services businesses breaking the taboo around menopause and offering support to employees.
An area which continues to remain taboo in many workplaces is the menopause, with only 22% of people currently experiencing the menopause disclosing their status at work1. Menopause- defined as the time when periods stop due to lower hormone levels - has many physical and emotional effects, many of which could impact employees in the workplace, and to continue taking strides toward gender equality in the finance industry more must be done to accommodate those suffering from menopausal symptoms.
While menopause largely affects women between 45 and 55, but can take places earlier – either naturally or due to other medical conditions. Data from the Faculty of Occupational Medicine showing that 8 in 10 menopausal women are in work, and stats from the TUC show around half of respondents to a survey about the effects of menopause in the workplace had reported having time off work due to menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms.
Studies have revealed that many employees consider leaving their roles, and are significantly less likely to apply for promotions, due to the menopause. With at least half of the potential workplace at risk of suffering the effects of menopause, whether that is heavy bleeding, tiredness or hot flushes, more must be done to support this considerable proportion of the workforce. Failing to address the menopause head on, therefore, risks alienating or disadvantaging a considerable number of employees UK-wide – potentially affecting retention and the progression of talent.
Many conversations around women’s health in industries across the UK are still woefully behind. It is no surprise, therefore, that discourse surrounding menopause, and more generally, women’s health, is yet to be normalised within many workplaces. In recent headlines it was revealed that finance executive Louise McCabe won a discrimination case against a former boss who treated McCabe as a ‘menopausal woman’ and told her: ‘Don’t let hormones get out of control’ during a heated meeting2. This highlighted the ongoing stigma that surrounds the menopause, and the sexism and ageism that festers in these environments. In fact, employment tribunals citing menopause were up by 44% in 2021, highlighting the necessity for companies to implement inclusive policies regarding the menopause.3
We’ve taken a look at some notable examples of workplace approaches to menopause in financial services, and explored what we can learn from them:
Principality Building Society
Principality placed first in the 2022 UK’s Best Workplaces™ for Women. This achievement came as a result of feedback from women across the company. The company’s hybrid working, flexible hours, and menopause policy, amongst other benefits, lead to the accolade. Regarding their menopause policy, Principality stated that: ‘Having a policy in place allows us to demonstrate that by addressing the stigma around menopause and normalising conversations we can support colleagues to overcome barriers and challenges, further supporting them to achieve their full potential.’ The introductions of extra uniforms, the providing of fans and flexible working have made a real difference for those suffering from menopausal symptoms.
Julia Podosek from the team at Principality commented that she was ‘really pleased PBS are doing this’ as it is ‘a taboo subject which it shouldn't be, it's a normal and natural part of life. It's also giving managers the tools to help them not only understand but recognise the signs, help and support by having open conversations.’
Announced the launch of their Menstruation and Menopause Policy last year. Alison Wright, gender diversity committee member at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘Our new policy focuses specifically on menstruation and the menopause with the aim to raise wider awareness and understanding among all colleagues, and make managers aware of their responsibility to understand how the menopause and menstruation can affect people in their team, and how they can support those experiencing symptoms at work’.
The policy states that they can offer those with menopausal symptoms:
- Flexible working;
- Access to changing/showering facilities
- Thermostat requests
- Occupational Health
- Access to the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), Lifeworks
- Access to HL’s Wellbeing resources
This list is non-exhaustive and highlights the commitment from Hargreaves Lansdown to provide an inclusive and supportive working environment for all colleagues.
Virgin Money and Santander
Virgin Money have taken steps to promote gender equality regarding the menopause, as seen in the Virgin 2021 Gender Pay Report which states: ‘There is new guidance designed to support colleagues and people leaders and provide a network to share experiences. This is in partnership with Henpicked, who are leading the way in this space, and we’ll hugely benefit from access to their Menopause in the Workplace tools.’
Henpicked work with a range of banks, including HSBC and Santander. Theresa Winters, Senior HR Manager of the latter, commented: ‘Henpicked bring a huge amount of experience and knowledge relating to support for menopause and, with many of the team having their own experience to share – they deeply understand about the importance of employers providing workplace support.’
Last year, HSBC became the first employers in the UK to be awarded Menopause Friendly Accreditation. This accreditation was established in order to recognise companies that are ‘putting diversity, inclusion and colleagues’ wellbeing centre stage’, Suzanne Banks from Menopause Friendly told the organisation: ‘It’s clear how much you’ve done to create a culture where it’s easy to talk about menopause. You’ve taken training and communication very seriously with some amazing initiatives taking menopause knowledge and awareness to all parts of your business’
Amanda Murphy, Head of Commercial Banking for HSBC UK, said: ‘We’ve built a thriving community leading awareness and education about the menopause across HSBC UK, underpinned by supportive policies and actions. We’re incredibly proud to be breaking the taboo surrounding menopause as part of our wider employee wellbeing strategy, creating a more inclusive workplace where all our colleagues are supported to be at their best.’
What more can be done?
In the Standard Chartered report ‘Menopause in the Workplace: Impact on Women in Financial Services’, three areas were highlighted where workplaces can improve their inclusivity regarding menopause, namely: ‘Culture, training, and awareness’, ‘Flexibility and working arrangements’, ‘The workplace environment and provisions’.
The menopause policies mentioned above have flexible working arrangements in common. This means that there are hybrid work-from-home arrangements in place. This allows those suffering from symptoms to choose to work at home during flare-ups. This helps those that have previously had to take time off on days where being in an office is not viable.
Flexibility can also be implemented in regard to working hours. If menopausal women are allowed to start later and finish later, those who find it difficult to sleep at night due to their symptoms will be able to get more hours asleep, reducing tiredness, thus improving productivity.
Likewise, those who are up early may benefit from being able to start earlier and finish earlier whilst their energy levels are higher.
Providing training – such as the ‘lunch and learn’ sessions hosted by HSBC – help all members of a company to learn about the menopause and increase women’s comfort by demystifying the menopause. Sessions cover topics such as symptoms, treatments, diet and nutrition, and how to have conversations with your manager about the menopause. This helps to start the conversation, creating a more inclusive environment where women feel comfortable to ask for support.
By providing provisions to staff (such as sanitary products, fans where required etc) companies can increase the comfortability of not only those suffering from menopausal symptoms, but also the entire workforce.
Allowing employees to have a fixed desk can also benefit those going through the menopause, saving time and any embarrassment for those who need provisions such as a fan or tissues. White hot-desking has become embedded in working culture, fixed desks would also benefit disabled employees with accommodations, such as office equipment tailored to their needs.
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Barcadia Media Limited
|6th September 2022 at 11:00am