One concerning finding from our survey was that a number of women reported encountering sexist and ageist attitudes and practices towards women, the menopause and female ageing in their workplaces.
Of those women with direct experience of the menopause, almost a third (29.3 per cent) felt the menopause was treated negatively in their workplace. Almost 6 of 10 (58.5 per cent) reported witnessing the menopause being treated as a ‘joke’.
Although in some cases, survey respondents reported witnessing or using humour about the menopause as a form of camaraderie or as a coping mechanism, in other cases women reported unwanted comments or witnessing sexist bullying and harassment related to the menopause. One respondent reported being ‘openly mocked through email systems between colleagues in regards to an Occupational Health report which stated menopause.’ Another reported that in her workplace, ‘the whole issue of periods and menopause can be treated as a joke. “Oh she’s in a bad mood because of pre-menstrual tension (PMT)”.’
Other respondents reported similar negative experiences:
‘We spend a lot of time on equality issues but the menopause is treated as a joke: “are you having one of those moments again,” said with a smirk sometimes used as a put down’
‘Colleagues have undermined/been derogatory to other colleagues citing “they’re menopausal!” or “it must be that time of the month!” to insinuate that the professional they are referring to is being irrational/they are not in control of their behaviour which undermines them, their confidence and others’ opinions of them.’
A number of women also reported being penalised for their menopausal symptoms by performance management and sickness absence policies. There are a number of different equality issues
Employers have a duty to prevent workplace discrimination and to make adjustments to ensure women can work safely through the menopause. But there are benefits for employers in taking a more proactive approach towards the menopause too.
Linked to the menopause which have been overlooked for too long. It is important that unions actively raise the equality issues linked to the menopause with employers and press for workplace cultures that foster an atmosphere of fairness, dignity and respect.
Employers have a duty to prevent workplace discrimination and to make adjustments to ensure women can work safely through the menopause. But there are benefits for employers in taking a more proactive approach towards the menopause too. By fostering safer and fairer workplaces for women working through the menopause, employers are more likely to retain the skills and talents of experienced and skilled workers and benefit from increased morale and wellbeing among staff.