Employers need to start taking seriously the menopause and the serious negative impacts it can have on women in the workplace, a learning and development consultancy has urged.
With the UK workforce ageing, Adaptis says employers can no longer afford to ignore them.
Twenty years ago, less than half of women aged 50-64 were working. Today, whoever, around 70% of women in this age bracket are still in work. And industry estimates suggest that by 2024, the workforce will be made up of twice as many women aged 55+ than between 16 and 24.
Charlotte Burton-Barker, learning consultant at Adaptis, said: "In today's workforce, we are beginning to see up to five generations of employees working together. Following the emphasis on gender balance, there has been an upsurge in awareness and policies to support women through key stages of their lives such as pregnancy and motherhood, enabling them to work in a way that better suits their needs.
"Menopause, on the other hand, remains neglected and often a taboo topic in the workplace. It is not always well provided for in culture, policies or training. Typically, the period of hormonal change caused by the menopause lasts between four and eight years and the average age for women to begin the menopause is 51. Given the ageing workforce, understanding and supporting women through this stage of their lives must now be a priority for employers."
The most common symptoms of menopause are hot flushes, poor sleep, night sweats, reduced concentration, mood swings and fatigue. More psychological symptoms include a decrease in confidence, feelings of anxiety and/or depression.
A survey conducted by the BBC found that 70% of women do not tell their manager when they are experiencing menopausal symptoms. And a report by the Equalities Office suggests that absenteeism from the menopause is cost organisations more than £7 million a year.
Charlotte added: "[This is a] cost which would be significantly reduced through improved education and understanding amongst employers."
Adaptis is calling for employers to create an open and common language around menopause and its impact on women as a first step in tackling the stigma, facilitating informal conversations in the workplace. It also recommends formal training for managers to help them learn how best to approach women of a menopausal age about their needs in a considerate and effective manner.