By Deborah Garlick, CEO Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace
More and more organisations are starting to introduce menopause policies and support into their portfolios. While it’s not currently the law to have one in place, it’s certainly good practice. An increase in menopause awareness coupled with an increase in employment tribunals means it’s a key focus for forward-thinking organisations.
Putting down your support in a formal document – whether this is a policy or a guidance document – means everyone will understand that this is important in your organisation, and can see what they can access if they need to. It means that all line managers are working to the same guidance across the business, so you’re offering consistency to your colleagues.
While I’m going to put some tips and best-practice ideas in this article, what we don’t recommend is working to a template. Why not?
Because every organisation is unique.
Each has its own culture, leadership style, operates across different locations, has a wide range of roles. And so on. It would be very hard to find two identikit organisations even within the same industry. While we have a library of sample policies for our Menopause Friendly members to draw inspiration from, we also run workshops to help them develop one which is exactly right for their own organisation.
Another reason is that a menopause document needs to be organic, something which develops and thrives and grows alongside the business. I can’t emphasise enough that’s it’s not a box-ticking exercise, where a ready-made template is uploaded to an intranet. The best policies and guidance documents I’ve seen are those where the employer has engaged with their colleagues, getting insight and input into what would really help, as well as looking more widely at the possibilities for support within the organisation.
There are, however, some general tips to think about when you’re putting your policy in place.
How will it fit in with what you already have? If you have a portfolio of policies, will this sit within them? Could you include menopause support in some of your existing policies, such as absence, sickness or wellbeing. Or does your organisation tend to be more informal and go for guidance documents? Whatever you already do, make sure your menopause support is consistent.
How will your colleagues find it? Dusty policies sitting unnoticed in the depths of your intranet might as well not exist. Again, this isn’t about you saying you’ve done it and that’s that. It’s about telling everyone it’s there and how to access it. And that does mean everyone. Make sure your comms extend to every area of your organisation, regularly telling people the policy is there, what’s in it and updating them with any changes.
Put yourself in the place of those using it. Whether you’re a colleague looking for support for yourself, seeking advice about supporting others or a line manager discussing reasonable adjustments, you need to keep your policy clear and straightforward for all users.
Remember the power of training. This is key, actually. Training supports a policy and a policy supports training. The more your senior colleagues and line managers understand how to offer support, the more approachable they’ll be. A common theme of tribunals is lack of management understanding – not a place anyone wants to be.
What to include:
Of course, this depends on the nature of your business. But I’d always recommend carefully creating the content, we cover the latest thinking around language and style of writing because it makes a big difference. We’ve seen some amazing creativity with menopause guidance documents that look inviting and are easy to read. Consider diversity and inclusion too – this is a document for all colleagues, needs to speak to everyone.
A big part of the bespoke nature of a policy is how it links with your overarching wellbeing strategy. So it’s a good idea to include an opening to this effect, to highlight how menopause support fits in with this strategy.
Including the definitions of menopause is also a good idea. Most people might think they have an idea of what it means, but there are actually different stages. Menopause is when a woman has not had a period for 12 months – it’s a one day event. Perimenopause is the time leading up to this, which is when symptoms can start. Post menopause is the time beyond menopause.
Remember too that while we think of menopause as a ‘natural’ stage, for some it’s surgical or induced, so make sure your language reflects this. It’s also best to avoid talking about menopause as a time women are no longer fertile. There is guidance around using contraception post menopause, and for some it can be an emotional subject. Stick to the facts.
Include some information about the range of possible symptoms of menopause. Some are well known, like hot flushes, others are less well known, such as brain fog. In fact, many of the symptoms women say impact them most at work are psychological.
Explain your reasonable adjustments. Again, these will vary depending on the nature of your business and the role in question. They’re often very simple though, such as access to ventilation or flexible working. You won’t be able to cover every scenario, so give examples and explain these will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Finally, signpost wisely. Include links only to reputable sources and avoid giving any medical advice other than the colleague should speak to their GP.
Your policy is yours. It’s not a by-the-numbers, shallow and meaningless document. It’s an important part of your employer offer. Having the right menopause support in place can even help you attract and retain top talent. So own your policy, shout about it, update it and watch it evolve with your business. Your colleagues will thank you for it.
Her team have been working with UK-wide and international organisations for over 7 years to make it easier for them to introduce the right training, policies and practices to raise awareness, education and support of this critical area. In 2021, she launched The Menopause Friendly Membership and accreditation. The membership is now supporting leading employers to achieve Menopause Friendly Accreditation. With over 400 members, and over 50 who’ve achieved this industry-recognised award including Accenture, Boots, HSBC UK, John Lewis and many more leading employers.