Employers need to do more to “normalise conversations” about the menopause in the workplace, say experts. The comments came after a BBC survey found 70% of respondents did not tell their bosses they were experiencing symptoms. Some firms have brought in menopause-specific policies but experts said for many it was still a taboo subject. GP and menopause expert Louise Newson said it was a “silent issue for too many organisations”. The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally as oestrogen levels decline.
It usually affects women between the ages of 45 and 55 and includes symptoms such as poor sleep, hot flushes, anxiety, irrationality and poor memory. The BBC survey asked 1,009 women aged 50 to 60 how their experience of the menopause had affected their work and relationships and what their symptoms and treatment were. The poll, by Comres for BBC Radio Sheffield and Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, found 70% of women did not make their employer aware they were experiencing symptoms, while nearly a third said they had not visited their GP. Nearly half of respondents said the menopause had affected their mental health, while a quarter said it had made them want to stay at home. Former Nottingham Police chief constable Sue Fish was responsible for introducing the force’s menopause policy. “I was horrified to find out women were leaving early because of the severity of their symptoms. “Some had been rebuffed by line managers or they’d chosen not to talk about what they were going through. “It was such a waste of all that talent and experience that these women had in serving the public. “Bringing in a policy was absolutely the right thing to do. Talking about it helped build a culture of openness “I also had my own experiences of the menopause to draw on and I talked about it very candidly.”There was me, at the top of an organisation making difficult decisions, and I didn’t want anyone blaming that decision on irrationality. It was quite a challenge to overcome.” GP and menopause expert Louise Newson works with West Midlands Police and the fire service to give advice and support on the menopause and its impact on work. She said: “Is enough being done to address it in the workplace? No. It’s still a silent issue for too many organisations. “We don’t talk about the menopause. We don’t get taught it at school and it’s not standard to learn about it in medical training either.” She added: “Things are improving but there needs to be much more openness and understanding not just from employers but doctors as well.”