The menopause. It’s clearly a hot topic for workplace wellbeing leaders as we had over 500 registrants for our recent “Understanding the menopause and how employers can help” webinar.
As with all aspects of workplace wellbeing, employers are keen to learn from the experiences of other employers. So, when Becky Thoseby, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Ministry of Justice UK (MoJ) mentioned her work in this area, I wanted to hear more.
In this exclusive interview for www.makeadifference.media, Becky and her colleague Karen Canner share insights into how the MoJ’s menopause network operates and how this fits with the organisation’s person centred approach to workplace wellbeing. Karen is the award-winning member of the executive committee for the Cross Government Menopause Network.
First can you tell us a bit about where the inspiration for your menopause network came from?
Karen: My inspiration was from my own personal experience of how confusing it was to be going through peri-menopause. I felt alone and unwell and unable to do my job well any more. I didn’t start to join the dots together until I went to my doctor with worrying symptoms that I now know are common for hormone (oestrogen) deficiency or menopause.
I could not find mention of Menopause anywhere on the MoJ intranet and was disappointed as we have polices and guidance on most other HR related health and wellbeing issues. I decided I needed to do something about it and the idea for a menopause support network was born, with a lot of support from those experienced in running staff networks and the MoJ D&I team.
SWIM arose out of that need to offer support and to help people feel they weren’t going through this alone, as well as wanting to keep people at work for longer – 20% of women feel they need to leave work due to their symptoms.
Regular absences cause questions to be asked and not everyone is comfortable in sharing the reasons for their absence. I felt the conversation needed to be opened up more widely and to make it more normal to talk about.
Since then I have been invited to join the Cross Government Menopause Network’s Executive Committee. This award winning network was responsible for issuing the Guiding Principles on Menopause as well as Toolkits for Staff and Managers. This includes a Menopause Reasonable Adjustments Passport for staff to complete with their manager and take with them for the rest of their career if necessary.
I was very proud recently to have been announced as the winner of the MoJ Award for Wellbeing for 2020 for my work with SWIM.
What kind of response to the network have you seen from women and their colleagues? How do you think the network has helped and what evidence do you have of this?
Karen: Many have thanked us for opening up the conversation and providing the support for them to get more information and help on managing their menopause in the workplace. People are so grateful that the topic has been brought to the forefront of the Wellbeing agenda and our aim is to support those who want to stay at work to do so rather than feel they need to leave because they are unsupported.
This is so important for us in terms of retaining our valued talent, knowledge and capability. Our membership grows daily with those wanting to know more and where to get assistance and advice. Although we don’t give medical advice we do point to resources that can do that.
How does this network fit with your holistic approach to supporting wellbeing?
Becky: At MoJ we take a person centred approach to wellbeing, which means that we essentially view each person as an individual with their own unique package of needs. We need people to feel they can have open conversations with their managers about all the different issues that might be affecting how they are at work, and be truthful about reasons for any absence, whatever they may be.
The network, and the support they provide, has helped jobholders by giving them the confidence and tools to raise the issue with their managers. And it has helped managers be more sensitive and understanding in accommodating the needs of the people on their teams.
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Menopause affects everyone at some point in their life, whether it be personally, or through family members, friends or colleagues, so the network hasn’t just helped women who are experiencing menopause but those who are supporting them too.
It has also helped put menopause on the agenda as a serious issue, and contributed to our mission of breaking the stigma around conditions that are embarrassing or awkward to talk about.
What next for the network?
Karen: We are continuing to grow our membership, continuing to communicate regularly with members and offer high quality events for them to participate in. We will celebrate World Menopause Day every year in some way and eventually the conversation will become so commonplace and the guidance become so embedded we may not even need a network in the future!
Thank you Becky and Karen for sharing your insights. We look forward to hearing how the network continues to develop. If you have other case studies to share with the employers who read our newsletter and visit www.makeadifference.media, I’d love to hear about them. You can reach me at [email protected]
You might also be interested in watching our “Understanding the menopause – how employers can help” webinar, sponsored by Vitality in association with Peppy and Tesco. Enter you details here to access the recording and event materials free of charge: