#NQ5 Women’s Health Matters: The menopause and work

Almost 7 0 % of women  aged  16 to 64-years-old are in paid employment in the UK. Three and a half million of those are between the ages of 50 and 59. Despite an aging female workforce, the menopause and its effects on the workplace has largely remained a taboo subject.

At Napo’s AGM last year, Ikky Bhogal proposed  a  motion  in a bid to generate more awareness of this important issue. Women’s Health Matters which was carried unanimously asked Napo to:

  • highlight the issues of the menopause for women in the workplace;
  • promote sickness absence procedures which can take account of menopause related sickness absence;
  • encourage openness and discussion amongst women members;
  • promote training/awareness raising about menopause within Probation and

The motion was originally proposed in 2015 but could not be debated. During a break in conference, Ikky overheard some women members wondering why the menopause was a motion when there were “bigger things to be worried about.”

Ikky says: “My ears pricked up and I joined the debate and eventually let them know I was the author of that motion. What I learned from that is we as women don’t always help or support our  colleagues  going through the menopause because we have ‘been there worn the t-shirt’ and believe it is something you don’t make a fuss about.”

Given the conversation that took place last year, conference’s overwhelming support of the motion was a surprise and she says: “I actually had women and even a few male colleagues come over and tell me it was a really good motion and spoke about their experience supporting their partners or members of their family.” The physical effects of the menopause are well documented, but little has been published on its impact on working life.

“From my research I have found the main difficulties for women during this time are poor concentration, tiredness, low confidence and feeling depressed. But, if a woman says she is feeling depressed as a result of the menopause, it is not taken as seriously if she was depressed for any other reason,” Ikky explains.

Hot flushes are a major source of distress for women, and they are often exacerbated by poorly ventilated offices, delivering presentations and taking part in formal meetings. The combined effects of hot flushes, poor concentration and bad memory are often wrongly attributed to incompetence.

Ikky thinks that being a taboo subject and sexism in the workplace has made the menopause “just another burden impacting the business needs”.

“A lot of the boards or execs are comprised of men, and women who want to progress have learned never to make a fuss about anything for fear of being seen as a feminist or a problem,” says Ikky.

Ikky says that although there are not a lot of women approaching Napo reps to help them with issues relating to the menopause, she knows of a few. But are Napo reps equipped to deal with them?

“I don’t think we are fully equipped. I think there could be more training. It’s almost like looking at the medical model of disability where the disabled person is seen as the problem, but I see the menopause as a societal responsibility because women are large contributors to the economy.

“Not all reps might want to take on this specialism, but I think there should be someone in each branch that women can go to. If this doesn’t happen there should at least be a manual about the symptoms and  giving  advice  on how this can be incorpotated into policies like Emotional Wellbeing or Sickness Absence,” Ikky says.

Since the motion was backed whole-heartedly by Napo members, Ikky is optimistic about what could happen as a result of the motion being carried.

“I would like to see the CRC and NPS incorporate it into their policies just like learning difficulties or disabilities have been. It should be treated as part of the equality strand since some women’s menopause last longer than a year and it does have an adverse impact on their day to day life so in one way it could be classed as a disability,” she explains.

Contact your local branch or Napo HQ if you are experiencing difficulties in the workplace as a result of the menopause

Taytula Burke



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