Today (18th October) is World Menopause Day. It’s 24 hours of organisations and charities bringing awareness around the transition that affects women, on average, in their 50s. But many people are researching the symptoms of perimenopause—what is this and how does it affect people in the workplace?
What Is Perimenopause?
This is not to be confused with premature or early menopause. Perimenopause is when periods become irregular, happening more or less often. Women might also experience slightly heavier periods.
According to BUPA, this lasts for about four years before menopause. However, it can sometimes last longer. So for some, they can happen every two or three weeks and, for others, periods might not happen for months at a time.
Eight out of 10 women will have additional symptoms before and after menopause, according to the NHS. These can have a significant impact on daily life and thus our work lives.
Other common symptoms include (but are not limited to):
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Difficulty sleeping
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Mood changes such as low mood or anxiety
- Joint stiffness, aches and pains
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
- Weak bones (osteoporosis).
How Does Perimenopause Affect Employees?
In 2017, the British Menopause Society (BMS) UK released data that showed that almost half (45%) of women, whose menopause had a strong impact on their lives, felt their symptoms had a negative impact on their work.
UNISON released a policy paper, “The menopause is a workplace issue.” It shows that 20% of respondents to a survey conducted in 2018 considered leaving their workplace because they had found it difficult to deal with menopause at work. In addition to this, 44% of respondents found their symptoms extremely problematic.
Wales TUC also found that only around a third of women would feel comfortable talking about their menopause status at work. More shockingly, less than 1% of respondents said their workplace had a policy on menopause.
Research specifically on perimenopause, conducted by Dr. Louise Newson and Dr. Rebecca Lewis of the Newson Health and Wellbeing Centre, found that the situation for women or those going through perimenopause was grim. According to the research, 9% of women had to undergo a disciplinary procedure as a result of poor performance at work—this was related to perimenopause and menopausal symptoms.
The same research found that around half of respondents reported having time off work due to menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms. 19% were absent for eight weeks or more. In total, 37% of women had been provided with a sickness certificate from their doctor. Of these, 52% listed anxiety/
stress as the cause, with only 7% stating menopause as a reason for sick leave.
How Can Employers Support Employees Going Through Perimenopause?
Having a policy for women going through perimenopause and menopause would help employees and managers better understand what support is on offer when symptoms are having a negative impact on work. The Women’s Health Concern has launched a “Menopause in the workplace” section on its website for World Menopause Day, which provides resources for employers and employees.
Further, having managers and male employees undergo training to understand perimenopause, as well as menopause, will help remove the stigma around the transition. Many women feel that this stigma still exists around them.