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Work-related stress and menopause

Published 18 October 2023

The following is an extract from an OH Today article by Emma Persand. The full article can be found here https://ioh.org.uk/2021/10/menopause-work-and-occupational-health/

Did you know

  • Every woman will go through menopause transition and 25% will have
  • symptoms that significantly affect their health and wellbeing.
  • 3 out 4 women experience hot flushes
  • 50% of women say work is more challenging
  • 47% of women do not tell their manager why they need a day off
  • 25% have considered quitting their job

The workplace can support or make things worse. Less than 20% say their workplace provided information about menopause, only 10.2% said their workplace had a menopause policy or guidance and 77% would have liked more information about menopause at work.

When working as a case manager within an NHS occupational health department, I saw more and more women* over the age of 40 experiencing symptoms of work-related stress, being perceived as underperforming and sometimes even dropping out of work with inconsistent GP intervention.

Statistics from the British Labour Force surveys report that women between the ages of 45-54 years report high work-related stress. The timing of midlife stressors of juggling a job with child and elder care combined with domestic and financial responsibilities means that women and health care professionals are likely to attribute some physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms to stress, rather than perimenopause oestrogen decline. Due to this, women did not access or were not offered correct evidence-based information, treatment, and support. 

In Western society, menopause is viewed as a mid-life phase of a woman’s reproductive health and for a large part of the population this is the case, as the average age for a woman to reach menopause in the UK is 51.

Women suffer in silence and have poorer outcomes with menopause transition as their own attitudes and beliefs are influenced by the cultural attitude and media representation of menopause, alongside socio-economic, ethnicity, sexual and gender identity and lifestyle factors.

Occupational Health should be part of the wider health and wellbeing strategy and can provide a vital role in ensuring it is inclusive to meet the needs of all employees. A sign of a healthy organisation is demonstrated with the skill of managers knowing when to involve occupational health in the health and wellbeing management of employees. An inclusive health and wellbeing strategy that includes reproductive and sexual health could assist in addressing operational concerns of absent management, presenteeism and attrition through:

  • Access policy and/or a management guide for menopause and women’s health,
  • Encouraging the inclusion of these topics in wellbeing conversations, 
  • Educating all key personnel, 
  • Conducting a risk assessment to identify hazards that can be reduced (including environment and welfare)
  • Liaising with Occupational Health
  • Implementing reasonable adjustments with the use of a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan),
  • Supporting flexible and agile working
  • Encouraging Women’s Wellness networks
Headshot of Emma Persand
Emma Persand | LinkedIn

Emma is a qualified nurse and Director and Founder of Lemur Health – an organisation that provides consultancy, education, and training to support and retain women employees.

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