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  • Jane Falkingham, Mims Davies and Caroline Nokes with roundtable meeting attendees.

    Menopause in the workplace: International Women's Day 2024

    To mark International Women's Day (8 March) CPC-CG Director Professor Jane Falkingham CBE attended a roundtable discussion at 10 Downing Street to discuss employer support for people affected by menopause in the workplace. Professor Falkingham also hosted the Rt Hon Justine Greening for an 'in discussion' event focusing on this year's International Women's Day theme of 'inspiring inclusion' at the University of Southampton on 6 March.

    International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality. This year we are highlighting our research and activities around menopause in the workplace, a crucial area for reform if we are to achieve equality for all employees across their working lives.

    Professor Falkingham, along with CPC-CG and CRA members Professor Maria Evandrou, Dr Min Qin, and Professor Athina Vlachantoni, published research in 2021 on the changes to employment brought about by menopause. They analysed data on 3,109 employed women at age 50 from the UK National Child Development Study, and found that those with severe menopausal symptoms had a higher chance of exiting employment or reducing their working hours.

    Professor Falkingham comments: “People in mid-life are at the peak of their careers and are of incredible value to their employers. Our research found that those experiencing acute menopausal issues had a significantly higher chance of employment exit or reducing their hours by age 55.

    “The report was the first nationally to examine the impact of people experiencing menopausal symptoms on their employment, and showed the condition is a real obstacle to equality and inclusion facing thousands of people in the UK, yet it has been largely ignored until recently.”

    This research has since been used to inform workplace recommendations by the European Menopause and Andropause Society (EMAS). The findings have also been referenced in evidence to the UK Parliament, with Professor Jo Brewis, lead author of the 2017 Government Equalities Office report ‘The effects of menopause transition on women’s economic participation in the UK', citing the research in written parliamentary committee evidence. Part of the evidence stated that there is still progress to be made in supporting people in menopause at work, with Professor Brewis commenting:

    "Not only are those in the relevant age group a very significant part of the UK labour force, but creating menopause-friendly workplaces means they are much more likely to stay at work for as long as they wish, which has very clear financial benefits for them. These are likely to also have a positive knock-on effect in reducing the gender pay gap, which is presently largest between men and women in their 50s, as well as the gender pension gap. Moreover, it allows people in menopause to continue to derive self-esteem and social support from work, and guards against employers losing their accumulated knowledge, skills and expertise. Thus menopause-friendly workplaces also have a positive impact on wider society."

    This evidence was then used in the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee report 'Menopause and the workplace' published in 2022. The report stated that:

    "Menopause has been ignored and hidden away for too long. There is nothing shameful about women’s health, or about getting older. Supporting those experiencing menopause makes sense for individuals, for the economy, and for society."

    The report findings showed that nearly three-quarters of people report a “loss of confidence” due to menopause symptoms, and two-thirds admitted to increased stress. However, just one in four people sought any workplace adjustments, with worries about their employer’s reaction.

    To maintain momentum on highlighting issues around menopause in the workplace, Mims Davies MP, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, hosted a policy and practice roundtable meeting at the University of Southampton in 2023. Professor Falkingham shared her research findings on menopause and the barriers to remaining in the workplace, with Minister Davies and other politicians (including the Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP), local business and council leaders, and private sector and charity organisations. Attendees discussed options for enhanced flexibility from companies, as well as the requirement for employees to use disability legislation to hold firms to account for not making reasonable adjustments.

    After the event, Mims Davies MP said: “The passion of everyone in this room has encouraged me to take these issues further. One in four women consider leaving their jobs due to the menopause. Being able to talk about it and support it is really vital."

    Caroline Nokes, Member of Parliament for Romsey and Southampton North, said the menopause took a year of out her life. She added: “It turned me into an evangelist for trying to find routes to encourage employers and organisations to speak up for those who get massively overlooked. Talented women at the top of their careers are expensive to replace.”

    Subsequently, Professor Falkingham was invited to attend a roundtable meeting at 10 Downing Street, hosted by Minister Davies on 4 March 2024. Highlighting the International Women's Day theme of 'inspiring inclusion', the meeting focused on employer support for people affected by menopause in the workplace. The roundtable also marked the publication of the Government's Menopause Employment Champion’s 12-month progress report, 'Shattering the silence about menopause' and the re-launch of the Menopause Resources Hub on the Help to Grow portal.

    The report author, Helen Tomlinson, commented: "When I took on the role of Menopause Employment Champion, my aim was to show that perimenopause and menopause need not be a time for women to step back, step down or step out of their career. Over the last twelve months, it has been a privilege for me to be able to advocate for people affected by menopause in the workplace, particularly on behalf of those who do not have the platform, opportunity, or confidence to do that for themselves – to ensure they reach their full potential whatever their background, ethnicity, socio-economic demographic, or sector they choose to work in."

    Within Professor Falkingham's own workplace, the research has inspired a course on menopause at work for University of Southampton staff. The course aims to increase understanding and awareness of menopause, encourage conversation, and create a menopause-friendly environment, including new training resources such as a menopause guide and a podcast, developed by Professor Falkingham. Listen to Professor Falkingham discuss the research, what has been discovered about how people are affected by menopause in the workplace, and what we can all do to support each other and raise awareness.

    Further reading and resources

    Menopausal transition and change in employment: Evidence from the National Child Development Study (Maturitas)

    Heather Pasero talks to Professor Jane Falkingham OBE about her research on menopause in the workplace (World Menopause Day podcast)

    Menopause and the workplace (House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee)

    Written evidence from Professor Jo Brewis

    EMAS Menopause and Work Charter (European Menopause and Andropause Society)

    Menopause and the Workplace Resources Hub (Help to Grow portal)

    Shattering the silence about menopause (Menopause Employment Champion’s 12-month progress report)

    International Women's Day: Inspiring inclusion with the Rt Hon Justine Greening (University of Southampton)

    Posted 04/03/2024 10:16