Blog: Why menopause matters at Housing 21

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Posted 18 August 2020

A scramble to sit by the window followed by impromptu fans made out of the literature I’d put on chairs was the scene I was faced with whilst delivering a presentation to Care Workers about the strategic direction of the organisation. 

Who could concentrate and take in what was being said when they were so physically uncomfortable?  This is what prompted me to start our work around the menopause.

Over 40% of our staff are women over the age of 50 and, after undertaking a little fact finding through a survey, many of them are experiencing symptoms of the menopause which are impacting them physically, emotionally and psychologically.

“It takes away the isolation and makes such a difference knowing that other people are going through, or have been through this too.”

In the UK there are around 3.5 million women over 50 currently in employment, 25% of whom suffer severe symptoms. It’s been estimated that around 10% of this number will stop work altogether because of menopausal symptoms. That is a lot of lost labour, skill and knowledge. Just this month the British Medical Association found a strong pattern of highly experienced women leaving GP partnerships, ending their positions as clinical leaders and directors and leaving medicine early, because they were struggling to cope with menopause symptoms with no support from management or peers.

So, we now have a menopause policy which whilst giving guidance also helps affected staff start what was once a taboo conversation. There is a budget for staff to buy fans (whilst recognising that hot flushes are only one symptom), a dedicated section of our intranet for resources, and #menovists - staff who proactively speak about the menopause and can signpost people.  Training materials and guidance for managers have also been developed.

I think we are making a difference to the experience of menopausal women.  Recently, a Housing and Care Manager contacted me to ask for some resources around the menopause. A couple of strong, longstanding members of his team suddenly changed their behaviours and attitude towards work and he couldn’t understand why. Only after having proper conversations did he discover they were really struggling with symptoms of the menopause. He was signposted to resources which he has now used to create a menopause wall in his wellbeing suite. His staff were also given support by one of our #menovists.

A member of his staff said: “It takes away the isolation and makes such a difference knowing that other people are going through, or have been through this too.”

Across the organisation staff have really welcomed our work around the menopause enabling them to speak about it knowing that it will be taken seriously by their line managers and the organisation. 

As women spend a greater proportion of their life, and working life during menopause, there are clear business reasons for proactively managing an age-diverse workforce, recognising the effects of the menopause and providing the appropriate support. Imagine working for an organisation which didn’t have a maternity policy.

Vanessa Pritchard-Wilkes
Head of Strategic Engagement

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