Menopause and the Workplace

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2019 National Delegate Conference
1 January 2019

Conference notes that around 3.5 million women aged fifty years and over are currently in employment in the UK.

Conference notes further that the employment rate for women in the UK has actually increased in the past few decades and women now represent nearly half of the UK labour force. This means that many more women are affected by symptoms of the menopause in the course of their daily activities, often to the detriment of their families, work and life in general. Menopause symptoms vary, with around 25% of woman suffering severe symptoms. One in a hundred women under the age of 40 experiences the menopause. It is no surprise that women going through the menopause find work difficult due to poor concentration, tiredness, poor memory, depression, feeling low, reduced confidence and particularly hot flushes which are all contributory factors. These symptoms can have significant impact on attendance at work, which can then be misconstrued as a performance issue.

Conference is clear that employers have responsibility for the health and safety of all their employees, and there are clear business reasons for proactively managing an age diverse workforce.

Conference notes that UNISON has produced guidance for its safety reps on menopause and work. According to the research from TUC, workplaces are not designed for menopausal women in mind. Often managers are male or younger; and women find it difficult to disclose their menopausal issues to them. Many women opt to work part time or leave work altogether because flexible working hours are not available. Women would find it useful to have information regarding the menopause or advice regarding how to cope with work and their employer.

Conference recognises that the menopause also affects some trans men and non-binary people, and that menopause policies and procedures need to be fully inclusive to meet the needs of all members affected by the menopause.

Temperature control in the workplace remains an important issue. The hottest issue is that managers don’t recognise problems associated with the menopause, believing it to be a difficult subject. Managers need training on menopause related () leave and flexible working time arrangements; they need to provide appropriate uniforms.

The STUC launched a report last year on the impact of Menopause in the workplace. One of the conclusions was that of the 3,649 respondents 95% said they would welcome a model policy.

Conference congratulates South Lanarkshire Council UNISON branch for developing a menopause policy with their employers which is the first comprehensive policy of its kind in Scotland. It is vital that employers provide the support that women need within the workplace.

Conference also congratulates the Velindre and Public Health Wales UNISON branch, whose pioneering work with Velindre University NHS Trust has directly led to a policy document, backed by the Board, that will make the employer both menopause aware and supportive to its staff. This policy will include specific training for all managers, workshops for all staff, access to alternative therapies and pelvic health experts and the utilisation of the Menopause Cafe to enable all staff to talk about their menopause experience.

Conference believes we must use all our resources to challenge attitudes to the menopause, to ensure employers have procedures in place and to ensure that the workplace meets the needs of the menopausal woman.

Conference fully recognises that having over one million women members is unique in our trade union movement.

Conference let us lead the way on this issue. We have a duty to those members who are or will suffer from this condition. This can also be used as recruiting tool to show again that UNISON is at the forefront of campaigning for our members.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to:

1) Work with branches and regions to establish examples of good practice in the local areas;

2) Build on good practice to develop workshops to enable union reps to represent and negotiate suitable working conditions for members going through the menopause;

3) Work with Learning and Organising Services (LAOS) to produce training materials on menopause to branches and regions.

4) Consider working with the Menopause Cafe charity as a way to actively promote discussion and awareness of menopause with employers across the UK.

5) Develop a “Menopause – We Got This Covered” Charter to highlight and offer advice re good workplace practices to help during the menopause;

6) Fund the launch of this charter and encourage politicians at local and national level to highlight the issue of menopause.