An MP has called for workplace menopause policies to be made mandatory, to help women work through what can be the most difficult time of their lives.
Welsh Labour Party politician Carolyn Harris MP, speaking at a debate the issue on 9 June, said it was a ‘positive step forward’ that education on the menopause is being incorporated into the school curriculum, but that this is ‘just one part of a much bigger picture.’
She called for better training for GPs to ensure that women are correctly diagnosed and given the right treatments and for workplaces to be proactive in providing support.
“Women should not feel inferior or incapable of doing their job because of the effects of the menopause on their health and wellbeing, but, sadly, too many do.
“The situation could be so easily rectified. Simple changes in the workplace, such as flexible working hours, relaxed uniform policies and adaptations to the working environment, could all make such a difference.”
Sharing the findings of a consultation which is running as part of the Women’s Health Strategy for England, she cited how one respondent, Dinah, had explained that in her workplace, she was “surprised to find no menopause policy whereas we have policies for most conceivable events.”
Dinah had told her manager about her menopausal symptoms and how it was impacting her work. She said: “I was offered no support, we just talked about how I could stop making mistakes.”
The average age for a woman to reach the menopause in the UK is 51 years, according to the NHS. It means that up to 47 per cent of the UK workforce will experience menopause transition during their working lives, says a 2017 government review.
An online petition to require employers with more than 250 employees to introduce a menopause policy has gained over 2,000 signatures. “Whether it’s a policy or guidance document – it’s best if it’s written down and well publicised. A written Menopause policy for all large employers would be a significant step,” says the petition creator Nicky O’Brian.
Harris said she would be setting up an all-party parliamentary group on menopause support over the coming months.
“Women deserve so much better. They are giving up their careers and ending relationships because of the severity of their symptoms and the impact on their physical and mental wellbeing. It is no coincidence that suicide rates for women peak between the ages of 45 and 54, which is the average age that most women reach the menopause or experience perimenopausal symptoms. This cannot carry on.”
Women’s Health Strategy: call for evidence (consultation ends 13 June) here
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