Employers, Let’s Pause For A Moment

Now that we are talking about mental health in the workplace more freely, it’s time to tackle one of the last taboo workplace topics – menopause. 

US companies are beginning to consider “menopause-friendly workplaces.” 

Thank goodness! 

It all started in the UK, apparently. According to The New York Times, a recent poll estimated that 3 out of 10 UK workplaces now have a menopause policy in place.  

And that’s not all. 

More than 50 British organizations, including the soccer club West Ham United (hi, Ted Lasso fans!), are now are certified as “menopause-friendly” by a British professional training firm.  

And U.S. companies are catching on. Bristol Myers Squibb is setting up menopause support for its U.S.-based employees after becoming the first pharma company in the UK to be accredited as a menopause-friendly workplace.  

Just like when employers began realizing that to retain women during pregnancy and all parents after the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child, employers are realizing that offering help is a way to retain experienced women (ahem! older female workers) in the work force. 

It’s about time.  

Amy, Is This Really Such An Issue In The Workplace?

I am not exaggerating. A 2021 survey by the Mayo Clinic estimated that about 10% of women in the U.S. between the ages of 45 to 60 took time off in the last year because of menopause symptoms, costing employers about $1.8 billion. 

According to another survey in 2022, nearly 20% of U.S. women with menopause symptoms have considered leaving a job due to their symptoms being unsupported.  

OK, I Hear You. But As A Manager, How Do I Recognize These Symptoms?

What are the symptoms? Here are a few:  

  • Inability to concentrate 
  • Fatigue 
  • Hot flashes 
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Mood changes 
  • Hot flashes 
  • Insomnia 
  • Brain fog 

Hot flashes 

Get the idea? Trust me, hot flashes. are. no. joke.  

Chances are, if you have women in your workplace, they have suffered or are suffering from these symptoms either because of menopause or perimenopause, which is like pre-menopause and suffered by some women as early as their 30’s. 

How To Help Employees

Like with mental health, one critical step is to provide education about the symptoms and side-effects of menopause to reduce the stigma. Managers should know how to support workers who struggle with menopause symptoms. 

Management might consider how they can help employees and accommodate menopause symptoms rather than lose a valued employee. Minor adjustments, like allowing an employee to take a short break when symptoms flare or control the temperature, can be a lifesaver. 

And it works. In the UK, some workplaces are offering desk fans to employees dealing with menopause symptoms. Uniforms can be modified so that the fabric wicks away sweat. The NYT article offered this handy checklist for other ideas. 

This Sounds A lot Like “Accommodations.” Is Menopause A Disability?

No, on its own, menopause is not considered a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). It is simply part of the aging process except in certain cases where it becomes an impairment, which may qualify as disability under the ADA.

(For a more fulsome explanation as to “impairment” and accommodating invisible disabilities, check out this 2019 post about destigmatizing and accommodating mental health impairments in the workplace.)

Menopause symptoms, however, are real.

Thankfully, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), that handy site that provides accommodation ideas also lists accommodations that may be helpful to employees contending with menopause symptoms.

There are an estimated 34 symptoms of the menopause transition, and often, symptoms affect women just as they ascend the corporate ladder, adding the additional aspects of age and sex discrimination that may already exist in workplaces.

In fact, I hesitated in writing this article so as not to call undue attention. 

Bottom Line

At some point, menopause becomes a health issue for most women. Attentive employers who value their employees might recognize these issues, while those who refuse to acknowledge the existence of a major health issue risk losing good employees they would rather retain.

Photo by Centre for Ageing Better on Unsplash

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Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck has represented individuals and corporate clients in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and various federal district courts for more than twenty years. Ms. Epstein Gluck’s current practice areas include employment law—advising on and drafting employment agreements; handling employment negotiations, severance agreements, noncompete and nondisclosure agreements, “wrongful terminations” and other EEO matters; representation at the EEOC level; advising employers about discrimination laws and how to remain in compliance, and employment negotiations.