The burden of understanding and managing the perimenopause shouldn’t just rest with the women going through it, says Lesley Salem, founder of Over the Bloody Moon - a company that educates workplaces on the menopause.
These are unprecedented times, and many employers are setting in motion strong initiatives to support wellbeing.
Reward Strategy will be discussing perimenopause and menopause policies with Channel 4, Aviva and Brunel University London at the Reward & Payroll Summit on December 10 and 11. Claim your day one complimentary pass here.
Yet there is still a relatively hidden (and largely underestimated) issue affecting a large section of the workforce. And it’s quickly rising to the surface. The issue is perimenopause - a period of fluctuating hormone levels that starts several years before menopause and for many women can have a severe impact on physical, emotional and cognitive functions. It begins in the late 30s for most women with symptoms becoming more noticeable by age 43.
Women in their 40s and 50s have been identified as the fastest growing demographic in UK employment (ONS, 2019). This means that for the first time in the history of women in work, there will be a significant number managing a life changing transition whilst in the workplace. And for many it will have a negative impact at work - three in five women feel perimenopause has a negative impact at work (CIPD, 2019).
It’s been quoted that one in five women leave the workplace because of it (Dr Louise Newson, 2019). Over the Bloody Moon believes this number is much higher. Most women have reached a career high just as perimenopause starts. Yet with nine out of 10 women in the workplace being unprepared for perimenopause and more than four in five knowing little about it (Gen M - The Invisibility Report, 2020), often their struggles go on under the radar.
There is a real need for support and education in the workplace. The onus is on women to seek information and understand what is happening to them, but all too often they consult Dr Google, which can lead to confusion and overwhelm. Sadly, a lack of GP education in menopause also means that a lack of support and misdiagnosis is a common story (Too little Information, Avon 2020).
Most women only associate the ending of periods and hot flushes with menopause. They don’t join the dots between hormone imbalance and poor sleep, anxiety, brain fog - many other physical symptoms that can start several years before menopause. Not only will they suffer in silence, but many leave their jobs and don’t explain the underlying reasons why - they slip off the radar.
The absence of older females in senior roles would leave a considerable gap for organisations in terms of knowledge, experience and leadership. Add to this the cost of replacing lost talent or the potential legal fees from discrimination complaints. We are seeing more employment tribunals being won on the grounds of a woman’s menopause.
Employers really must take the lead. As well as starting the conversation about perimenopause, putting in place initiatives where women can go to discuss their experiences during work time, alongside running education workshops for all employees will help cultivate a more positive menopause culture.
With women in their 40s and 50s being the fastest growing demographic in the workplace, employers cannot afford not to be proactive.