Today, along with the rest of the world, UNISON marks World Menopause Day. As a union of a million women in public services, we are no longer prepared to shy away from talking about the menopause and the impact it has on just over half of the UK workforce.
What starts as forgetting silly things – going to the supermarket for milk and bananas and coming home with toilet rolls and potatoes, then the feeling of having a heater in your core that ends with a trickle of sweat rolling down the side of your face just sitting on the bus to work, not knowing why you just feel sad, anxious – soon becomes a very lonely place to be.
With people in the public eye like Davina McCall and Michelle Obama openly speaking about the impact the menopause has had on them, one of the long-lasting taboos is finally being broken. Not only that, but men are beginning to ask how they can support the women they know with this natural stage of their lives.
For UNISON, it’s a workplace issue – women make up just over half of the UK workforce and nearly eight out of 10 menopausal women are in work. Almost a million women have left their job, while others are forced to take long-term absence from work because of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and increased anxiety.
Yet, a few simple changes to the working environment can often make a world of difference – even just talking about the menopause openly can reduce the impact of some symptoms and enable people to continue doing well in their jobs.
The menopause is the definition of a trade union issue. Women must be able to do their jobs in comfort and not feel stigmatised either. There’s no need for women to press pause on their careers because of a natural life event.
That’s why World Menopause Day is important for UNISON and why it should be important for all employers too.
I stand in solidarity with each and every one of you, our members, as we continue to demand employers provide menopause awareness training, flexible procedures for sickness absence and a menopause policy.
UNISON reps up and down the country, men and women are running events on World Menopause Day, to raise awareness and turn policies into action.
We all need to be allies in this – including men.
Our team at UNISON is there to support you. Check the The menopause is a workplace issue: guidance and model policy here