Menopause at work
Menopause is an issue that affects half of our movement, we need to be better at removing the stigma and embarrassment that is still attached to it.
It is traditionally seen as a private matter or a ‘women’s issue’. It is often not a topic which is openly discussed or taken into account when designing workplaces and working practices. This need’s to change and the trade union movement (or specifically the BFAWU) needs to lead this change.
Menopause is an occupational issue, the health and emotional changes that women experience generally around the age of 52(the average age of onset in the UK) but realistically at any age, affects not only how a women does her work but also affects their relationships with both colleagues and managers. Interestingly three quarters of women who have chosen to go down the HRT route said that work was the main reason for them to choose it and that it had helped (TUC study)
The difficulty with the menopause is that not everyone is willing to talk about their experiences, many not even to a woman, and many women have had negative experiences of their symptoms whilst at work.
At branch level we need to ensure that we are encouraging and empowering our female members to become representatives, so that each branch has a point of contact with a woman, this may make disclosing issues around the menopause easier to the local union branch.
We need to ensure that our health and safety reps are monitoring risk assessments, that they are trained to look out for and challenge those that don’t cover specific needs of the menopause and women. For example ensuring their working environment will not make their symptoms worse such as monitoring temperature, access to cold water, ventilation and toilet facilities. All things we generally look at for everyone when the weather is warm, but focus less on when we move into cooler months. Menopausal symptoms happen all year round and having the heating on in winter for example may make the impact of the symptoms a lot worse.
The menopause won’t go away, it is a trade union issue as it affects our members. As a trade union we need to work on removing the perceived taboo around the menopause and encourage conversations around it. This isn’t going to be a quick fix solution and it will take time, resources and commitment, but there are ideas and resources already out there that can and must be utilised to help our members. After all our female members want our help, they just don’t always know how to, or feel comfortable asking for it.
Here are some resources, which reps and members may find useful.
ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) have produced guidance for employers on managing the impact of the menopause at work.
There is a lot of information about menopause on the NHS information pages. It describes the causes, the symptoms and the treatment options.
NICE (The National Institute of Clinical Excellence) have drawn up guidelines for health professionals on diagnosis and management of menopause.
The British Menopause Society is a charity aiming to educate, inform and guide healthcare professionals in all aspects of post reproductive health.
Menopause Matters is a website providing up-to-date, accurate information about the menopause, menopausal symptoms and treatment options.
Henpicked is a website for ‘women who weren’t born yesterday’ full of articles and resources.