How Workplaces Can Become More Menopause-Inclusive

Between the persistent stigma and the physical symptoms that come with menopause, feeling comfortable at work while experiencing it isn’t always easy.

An illustration of people in an office at desks, representing different ways workplaces can be menopause-inclusive.

(Illustration: Nicole Rifkin)

Nearly one-quarter of Canada’s workforce is currently in perimenopause or post-menopause, according to a 2022 report from the Menopause Foundation of Canada (MFC). But between the persistent stigma and the physical symptoms that come with menopause, feeling comfortable at work while experiencing it isn’t always easy.

Some are making efforts to change this. Across the pond, the U.K.’s Women and Equalities Committee published a 2022 report recommending ways workplaces can better accommodate those going through menopause. In March 2022, London mayor Sadiq Khan—who called menopause “one of the last taboos of occupational health”—introduced menopause leave for city hall workers. And at home, insurance giant Sun Life has paired up with MFC to develop resources for employers to improve workplace conditions for menopausal people, with a report due out later this year. “We believe that the workplace can be a great opportunity to have this dialogue,” says MFC president and co-founder Janet Ko.

Here are five tangible solutions you can bring to your employer that will make your workplace a more accommodating space.

1. A menopause policy

Henpicked, an organization that has accredited 56 British companies as menopause-inclusive, recommends creating an easy-to-access menopause policy that provides guidance on everything from supporting menopausal teammates to instructions on how to request accommodations, says founder Deborah Garlick. “It makes clear that the organization takes menopause seriously,” adds Garlick.

The policy at London South Bank University (LSBU), for example, includes advice to colleagues who want to support their menopausal teammates, how workers can request accommodations, and how to talk to a manager about menopause symptoms.

2. Fans and cold water to help with hot flashes

Three-quarters of people experiencing menopause will deal with hot flashes, so organizations should make it easier for workers to cool off at the office. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) suggests letting employees use small fans at their desks, while Garlick recommends creating work stations near ventilation and providing access to cold drinking water. At LSBU, employees with relentless hot flashes can also request a temporary break from high-visibility work, like presentations.

Related: Here’s Why You Experience Hot Flashes During Menopause—And How To Treat Them

3. Menopause champions

This spring, the U.K. government appointed its first Menopause Employment Champion, a voluntary role that helps encourage organizations to implement and develop menopause-inclusive policies for employees. Garlick says menopause champions can be a go-to resource for employees—from directing colleagues to menopause-related health insurance benefits to chairing menopause support groups. “For so many people, it’s just knowing you have somebody to talk to if you’re having a bit of a day,” says Garlick.

4. Inclusive benefits plans

Access to treatments like menopause hormone therapy, pelvic-floor physiotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy can be life-changing for menopausal people. The MFC’s Ko recommends that companies look at their benefits plans to see if they cover a range of treatments, or offer a health-care spending account.

Related: Setting The Record Straight On Menopause Hormone Therapy 

5. Flexible working hours

Nearly one-third of survey respondents in the 2022 U.K. parliamentary committee study say they missed work because of menopause-related symptoms. That’s why CCOHS recommends implementing flexible working hours and conditions for workers, as well as considering menopause when drafting policies around sick leaves.

Read more: Everything You Need To Know About Menopause

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