Considering the vast majority of women go through the menopause, most of them at work, the time has come for us all to stop avoiding the conversation.
The menopause can be hugely challenging and isolating for women, however it’s an issue that is not widely understood so is often ignored or avoided by employers.
This is astounding bearing in mind that the majority of women will experience the menopause – and 80% of them go through it at work1. People of menopausal age are the fastest growing workforce demographic in the UK and as many as 47% of the UK workforce will go through the menopause during their working lives2.
Despite its unavoidable nature for almost half of employees2 – not forgetting the family members and colleagues also directly affected – it is difficult to believe that open conversations about the menopause are not more readily taking place in the workplace. Especially considering that FTSE 350 firms reached the landmark of all boards having at least one female member in recent weeks. According to Paul Roberts, senior consultant for insurance and employee benefits specialist IHC, we are still at the “sniggering, giggling phases of mild embarrassment” regarding this subject as a nation and that is something that needs to change.
Kathy Abernethy, director of menopause services at Peppy, agrees that conversations about menopause have in the past been hidden away, kept solely to women-only groups and networks rather than out in the open. “We need to make it an everyday conversation.”
Menopause is an issue that affects us all
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this tendency to avoid the topic in the workplace is impacting on staff retention. One in 10 menopausal women say they have considered leaving their job due to symptoms, research shows, while 59% of working women between the ages 45-55 who experience menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work3.
“The problem with menopause, as my early-on-set wife will tell you, is that this is not a woman’s problem – this is a business issue for both sexes,” says IHC’s Paul Roberts. “If it hits women, it will hit their colleagues too, as some of the complex symptoms affect everyone around them.”
Peppy’s Kathy Abernethy agrees it’s not just a female issue. “We need to make sure managers and people who are working in organisations understand the basics of the menopause. Some people might be thinking I’m not very aware of the menopause and they would not be alone. There are lots of people who do not understand the mechanics of what happens during the menopause and the impact it might have.”
Menopause is not just about hot flushes and mood swings
Menopause also often carries the misconception that it is just about hot flushes, a situation which could be avoided with better education and information that helps to normalise and destigmatise the lesser known, more complex conditions associated with it.
“When we think about the effects of menopause on women and people who menstruate, we tend to focus on better known symptoms such as hot flushes and mood effects, however just as common as the physical issues are the less spoken about side effects related to mental health,” explains Dr Anushka Patchava, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, on a recent episode of Vitality’s Clinically Speaking series.
To combat the negative mental health impact of the menopause, Vitality Coach and mental health & wellbeing support adviser, Henri Saha, recommends a holistic approach to wellbeing and plenty of self-care, involving better sleep, nutrition and limited alcohol intake.
The conversation is changing
In March, VitalityHealth partnered with Peppy to offer a dedicated support service for women who are struggling with the menopause. As a result, clients will be able to access remote, expert-led support at the click of a button.
“Vitality is very proud to be the first private medical insurer to launch a specific solution in the menopause space and we are thrilled to partner with Peppy to do that,” added Dr Anushka Patchava.
According to IHC’s Paul Roberts, as businesses are becoming more inquisitive about employee support for menopause, one of the most common questions from employers is: “Why don’t more private medical insurers cover it now?”
While “thought-leaders are pushing the agenda and insurers are playing catch-up”, he says, “Vitality is head and shoulders ahead of the crowd and doing well”.
What does Peppy support provided through Vitality offer?
When people join Peppy through Vitality they immediately have access to an eight-week programme covering all sorts of topics, including: What’s normal and what’s not, how to manage symptoms and maintain health, as well as future steps.
Peppy resources are all evidence-based and in line with NICE clinical guidance and users get access to a chat practitioner who can help women along their menopause journey.
It also involves live interactive sessions exploring various relevant topics, including those wider life issues such as managing teenagers, dealing with anxiety, sex and menopause; all things that women often go through at the same time as menopause symptoms.
Users also get access to a 45-minute video or telephone consultation to delve into personal situations and get one-to-one menopause advice, or even referral onto Vitality resources or a GP if necessary.
“The resources are there to dip in and dip out throughout the menopause journey – from symptom relief right through to managing your health,” explains Peppy’s Kathy Abernethy on Clinically Speaking. Watch the full video below.
You might also be interested in watching Make A Difference Media’s “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.