Your first thought might be ‘do I really need to know about this?’…
Some of us haven’t come face to face with menopause yet but know it waits on the horizon. Others have never given it a second thought and situate themselves in a self-created ‘non effected’ category. However, whether you develop menopause yourself or want to support a menopausal friend or colleague, it’s bound to cross your path at some point in life.
3 in 4 women experience psychological menopause symptoms that can affect them at work. Kelly wants to help you develop personalised menopause policies and guidelines for your organisation. No two policies should be identical. Organisations vary, they have different cultures, leadership styles, job roles, approaches to equality, diversity and inclusion and wellbeing initiatives. So, menopause policies must be adapted to suit the organisation too.
There’s no one-size-fits-all.
Here are some of our suggestions on how to create a menopause policy and guidelines that will work for your organisation.
What do menopause policies or guidelines do?
Currently, it’s not the law in Ireland to have a menopause policy in place, but it is considered best practice. Organisations have increasingly been recognising the importance of creating guidance on how menopause should be supported within the workplace due to the benefits attached for both employees and the organisation as a whole.
The main aims of your menopause policy or guidelines are to:
· Clarify how your organisation supports menopause
· Outline principles and guidance
· Identify roles and responsibilities
· Signpost help and support
· Engage your colleagues
Be sure to include these:
It’s a good idea to start with a statement that links back to your overarching HR or wellbeing strategy. For example, ‘Our aim is to be a fully inclusive organisation and help all colleagues be at their best.’ Some include the legal frameworks that support menopause, others not. Most organisations are doing this because it’s the right thing to do and they care about their colleagues’ wellbeing.
Menopause facts and stats
We recommend including information such as the following:
· Definitions: stages of the transition, and that it happens over many years
· Age range: including early and surgical menopause
· Symptoms: the most frequent physical and psychological to demonstrate the range
Menopause isn’t just an issue for women, so keep the language inclusive
Menopause is sometimes referred to as a ‘natural’ stage in a woman’s life but for a large number of women, it is surgical or induced. It’s therefore, more inclusive to simply refer to it as a ‘stage’.
Sometimes menopause is also classed as a time when women are no longer fertile. While this isn’t wholly inaccurate, it’s not something we’d recommend you use in your documents. Many women do have surprise pregnancies around their menopause – there is even guidance about how long to take contraception post-menopause.
And there’s an emotional side, too. For some women, reaching menopause can lead to a sense of bereavement if they haven’t had children or had another child. It’s essential that your policy is fully inclusive. Here’s a good example of an inclusion statement:
“Everyone's experience of menopause is unique. We experience different symptoms, have different views or philosophies around how we'd manage them and our own personal medical histories. Different cultures may 'understand' menopause in different ways too.
“Throughout this document, we sometimes use the terms 'women', 'female' and 'her'. However, we want to be clear that this is inclusive of everyone who goes through menopause or experiences menopausal symptoms as a result of hormonal changes.”
It’s important to focus on describing, not prescribing. The emphasis should be on signposting accurate information about the different approaches to managing menopause (medical, complementary, lifestyle) to enable everyone to make informed decisions about what feels right for them. Encourage those experiencing symptoms to speak with their GP and consider signposting health and wellbeing support you provide.
Only signpost to reputable, factual resources, such as the HSE Menopause Guidelines. Providing guidance on how to prepare to talk to your GP about menopause or how to have a good conversation with your manager can also be helpful to include.
Additional information for managers
Some organisations create separate documents for colleagues and managers, and some combine these together. Again, this is about what fits your organisation. Additional things you could consider including are:
· Roles and responsibilities
· How to have supportive conversations
· Suggested reasonable adjustments
Communication and access
There’s no point in having a menopause policy or guidance document if no one knows how to access them. Considerations around where your policy is stored and how it is communicated are essential. Who are your key stakeholders and how can you involve them? The focus should be on creating an easy-to-find and well-publicised document.
A policy alone is not enough
We would never advocate simply writing documents as a box-ticking exercise. Imagine you’re a menopausal woman, struggling with symptoms. If you can easily find the documents and be really clear as to how their employer will support them, that will give them a lot of comfort.
Equally, imagine you’re a line manager and someone puts a meeting in your diary to discuss menopause. It’s good for them to be able to fully understand your organisation’s approach, too.
Your policy or guidance documents should form part of your strategy for supporting menopause in your organisation.
As you can see, producing your menopause policy or guidance is usually a combination of established facts and information alongside your own organisation’s approach to menopause. These documents then need to be well communicated, easily accessed and, crucially, embedded as part of your whole approach and ethos surrounding menopause.
Having the right information at your fingertips before writing up a policy can make it much easier, and you’re far more likely to hit the right notes to support your overarching menopause campaign.
Menopause is not just a female issue, it’s an organizational one. Let’s treat it as such!
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