Menopause in the Workplace -Must read for employers

REASONABLE ADJUSTMENTS IN THE WORKPLACE FOR MENOPAUSE

Author: Victoria Howell Menopause Nurse, RNA, PG cert Healthcare Leadership, BSc, DipHe Nursing Adult, DipHe LCW, DipHe Coach Mentor Practitioner.

So, why do you need to ensure Reasonable Adjustments are in place at work for people going through the peri or post menopause? As an employer, manager, equality and diversity or HR professional you need to be aware of and follow good practice to provide the right support to your workforce. You have a Duty of Care to all your employees’ health and wellbeing at work.

Let’s take a step back and look further at the menopause, what it is and who it affects. The norm range for menopause occurs between the ages of 45-55. If it occurs between the ages of 40-44, this is known as an early menopause. Any time before 40, is known as premature ovarian insufficiency or POI. Women may also go into premature menopause following surgery or radiotherapy/chemotherapy. You will need to consider the needs of trans men and non-binary people also enduring symptoms of the menopause. People may not feel confident raising the topic of menopause with managers for fear of being judged or discriminated against. A trans man may not wish to disclose he is trans and peri menopausal, a woman in her 50’s may not wish to disclose she has symptoms of perimenopause as she fears younger women may laugh about her. Equally a young woman may not wish to disclose, as she may be struggling coming to terms with what it means for her in terms of fertility.  Which is why awareness in your workplace needs to be aimed at all employees in addition to training and awareness for managers.

The menopause itself is literally 12 months after the last menstrual period, so it is one day, then is termed as post-menopausal. The phase before this is commonly known as the peri menopause. This may last a few months or up to or over a decade. So, people still have periods during this time. Oestrogen starts to fluctuate and can cause periods to be unpredictable, closer together, further apart, lighter bleeding or extremely heavy bleeding. The many symptoms of the peri menopause are varied; while some women experience lots of symptoms, some hardly experience any at all. Some appear to breeze through this transitional phase in their life, while others really suffer to the extent it impacts on their home and work life.

Envisage this scenario:

You have been kept awake at night worrying about something at work, it is ruminating in your mind. You eventually fall asleep, only to be woken up by extreme stomach pain, hip soreness, and the feeling of being extremely hot and sweaty. You fall asleep for short periods of time during the night, only to be woken again. The alarm goes off for work and you are already tired. Imagine going through that most nights. How do you think you would feel?

It will not surprise you to consider how these impacts on your work life, feeling tired and groggy before the day begins. It can often lead to lack of concentration and can affect memory. Imagine yourself in a meeting feeling this way and being asked questions, that usually you would have no problem answering but due to the above, it is a problem for you. You feel embarrassed, and this will ultimately impact on your confidence to fulfil your role efficiently. You will be worried about what your colleagues and manager think of you.

Let’s look at the Law.

The Law around reasonable adjustments is covered in more detail in other Chapters. Reasonable adjustments are for employees with disabilities or health conditions (ACAS). The Equality and Human Rights Committee say that “Equality Law recognised this may include changes to the way employment is structured. For example, removing barriers or providing extra support of resources”. This is the Duty to make reasonable adjustments, as employers we are responsible by law to provide a Duty of Care to all employees.

So now you know how the peri menopause can impact on a diverse age range of employees, how can you ensure you provide reasonable adjustments? How can you help as an employer or manager with regards to menopause in the workplace? Let’s look at what you can do.

Consider your environment

What type of culture does your workplace radiate? Do you have open values that all staff are encouraged to adhere to? Your values could include integrity, respect, trust, transparency, or support to name a few. Is your workforce aware of the values and do you practise these as a manager? Or are people afraid to confide in managers, afraid their issues will be discussed with other members of staff, or do they anticipate ridicule or discrimination?

Ensure you are approachable and professional, if staff do not trust you, they will not confide in you. Promote values of trust and excellence in your professional conduct. Raise the profile of an inclusive culture of wellbeing at work. Mental Health is now considered under the wellbeing umbrella, many organisations have Mental Health First Aiders to support the workforce. The introduction of Menopause Champions could help you to help your staff, perhaps a dual role for the Mental Health First Aider.

Training and awareness

Menopause policy – to include menopause sickness, this will assist accurate auditing, rather than generic ‘gynae’ reasons for sickness. Ensure all managers have read, understand, and refer to the policy. Easy access to all staff (in different languages), on your local intranet. If you do not have an intranet, in the Staff Handbook. Supply different formats for those with sight and hearing impairments.

Risk assess your work environment for people experiencing symptoms of the menopause, including a workstation assessment, as you would for mental health and pregnancy.

Hold menopause awareness sessions for all your employees.

Provide menopause awareness and support training for all managers. Arm them with a manager’s menopause pack, something they can easily refer to when required. (Victoria Howell Health & Wellbeing provides these workplace services, contact to discuss your requirements).

You may wish to commission the services of menopause specialist speakers/trainers if your workplace does not have the level of knowledge required. A trainer unknown to the workplace can help achieve better outcomes. They may be able to offer 1-1 support for people experiencing problematic symptoms of the menopause, as part of an occupational health report recommendation.

Incorporate the importance of lifestyle factors into your generic wellbeing programmes which all your workforce can benefit from. Introduce awareness around nutrition, hydration, exercise, and selfcare. You may have a member of staff who can provide yoga classes or other shared activities before or after work hours.

The more people in your company/corporation that is aware of menopause, the further it will help eliminate the unnecessary taboo around this topic. People enduring menopause will feel better supported and more likely to share the problems that they encounter, which may impact on their ability to fulfil their job role.

Reasonable adjustments

Provide a safe and confidential place to speak about symptoms, problems, and the impact it is having on the individual.

Workplace temperature – Hot flushes can occur any time, if possible, ask if the person would like to sit/work closer to an aircon unit, or a window.

Fans- provide fans at face and leg levels. During the peri menopause, and the person is having irregular periods, the temperature will fluctuate too. During menstruation, body temperature is slightly raised, so that combined with hot flushes can make one feel incredibly uncomfortable and hot.

Anytime access to toilet facilities. Some call centres, manufacturing companies only allow toilet breaks at set times. For employees that travel to other sites or visit your site, make information available at the onset of their arrival to the whereabouts of the facilities. You could incorporate that into a welcome process for all, so people do not feel they are being singled out because of their peri menopause (or any other health condition, disability). Natural cooling sprays available in facilities can help, something with peppermint or other essential oils that help with cooling, these can be extremely effective.

Quiet space/room- somewhere undisturbed and safe for someone to go and deal with a hot flush or anxiety, dizzy spell or other symptoms necessitating a quiet place.

Uniforms- Review the composition of uniforms, do they have natural fibres? Polyester and manmade fibre garments will contribute further to feeling hot and exacerbate a hot flush, causing sweat to drip and pool. Cotton or moisture wicking fabrics are readily available.

Cool water on tap – There are inexpensive units that deliver fresh cool water. These can be plumbed in so not to run out. Other types are available via contract, where large bottles are provided as spares. When people are hydrated, it may help reduce the severity of hot flushes, it can also help enhance concentration levels.

Flexible working hours- People who have been awake during the night may need to start later, or prefer to start early, as they are already awake and prefer to finish earlier. Listen to what will work best for your employee. If the role permits, offer working from home.

Shower facilities where available- Many companies have shower facilities for staff, for example those who cycle into work and shower before starting their day. Awareness of facilities will be beneficial to those suffering extreme hot flushes, having a shower and change of clothes can make all the difference to the ability to perform duties for the remainder of the day, instead of someone having to go home and lose a half day of work.

When periods are irregular and unpredictable, maintain staff dignity and avoid embarrassment by providing somewhere private away from an open plan office to store these products. Personal storage space, for sanitary ware, change of clothes, deodorant and, or medication.

Vending machines- healthier options like fruit, nuts and seeds.

If work duties require long periods of sitting or standing, provide access to rest room.

Many of the above need to be in place for general mental and physical health requirements.

Consider the cost

You may wonder how much will this cost? Well, consider the costs of someone leaving and the advertising, recruitment, and training of a new person and the impact this could have on service delivery.

Women’s health has attributed to the Glass Ceiling effect, where gender imbalance is seen, due to pregnancy and/or menopause, and has caused inequality in promotional prospects and pay.  Nuffield Health reported in 2017 that “72% of female workers said they feel unsupported at work. One in five said their symptoms had a detrimental effect on their work. One in ten said they had considered quitting their job”.

By accommodating the needs of your current staff, you will evidence Duty of Care, staff will feel valued and engaged. Sickness and attrition will reduce, and your company will demonstrate an inclusive culture of valuing their staff. The corporate reputation will be one of excellence and this will engage the interest of further stakeholders and customers. You will have a clear return on investment and ability for succession planning safe in the knowledge you are protecting your employees and your company.

Do you provide health insurance as part of your employees’ benefits package? Include menopause consultations and care with this.

Transitional

Menopausal symptoms do not last forever, this is a transitional stage in a person’s life. When the right support and care is provided for your staff, the less impact it will have on your service delivery.

As mentioned before, with the right awareness and training in place for the entire workforce, the menopause be a subject that can be discussed openly, comfortably and viewed as a norm and will help people be treated fairly.

The menopause can be a time for people to assess and review their life, and to look forward to positive change.

Put yourself in your employees’ shoes to enhance your understanding and be a role model of excellence.

Further reading:

Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians, www.fom.ac.uk

‘The Menopause at Work – A Practical Guide for Managers’, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. March 2019. www.cipd.co.uk

Menopause at Work, ‘The NHS Staff Council Working in Partnership’. March 2020

www.acas.org.uk

www.assets.publishingservice.gov.uk

www.equalityhumanrights.com

www.gov.uk

www.menopausematters.co.uk

www.transequality.org

An interview with Clare Baumhauer: Vulval Cancer UK Awareness

Doing the job I do, I get to meet many women, all with a story to tell. 

I met this lady and was blown away by her bravery, determination, motivation, drive and selflessness. Clare Baumhauer is an exceptional woman, despite her own Lichen sclerosus/vulval cancer (LS/VC) journey, she has selflessly set up Vulval Cancer UK Awareness. She is a strong, empowering role model for many women. Clare has consented to share her story to help all women, in the hope that they can get the right diagnosis, at the right time. 

Clare, can you please tell me about your awareness group? 

I started my Vulval Cancer UK Awareness (VC) support group first and later joined a Lichen Sclerosus (LS) group and met Emma Norman, who runs the LS group. I was already raising awareness on my Instagram and Twitter, but we joined together and started the Facebook page – Lichen Sclerosus/Vulval Cancer UK Awareness and website 2 years ago. We also started our #knowyourvulva yearly campaigns to further raise awareness. 

How did you become aware of VC/LS?

The first time I heard about VC was when the GP said I could have VC after many years of being told I had thrush. Looking back to being a child of about 5, I had vulval itching and was told I had cystitis even though the GP didn’t examine me. My symptoms came and went over the years, but I still went to see many GP’s in my 20’s and 30’s multiple times but was told I had thrush every time. Then finally a GP did a swab which came back clear; so a blood test was taken and this didn’t show up anything untoward. So, I was told it was probably early menopause symptoms and sent on my way with no support, advice or anything. I had regular smear tests, this was when I had white patches on the vulva and a tear and nothing was mentioned by the health professionals.

I went back after a tear in my perineum wouldn’t heal and had turned into a ulcer which got bigger and bigger, I was 43. At first GP said it was herpes and to go to a GUM clinic. I was shocked so she asked how many partners I had, and I said just my husband since the age of 18. She then looked again and said it could be VC, so I was urgently referred for a biopsy which showed LS and VC, again I had never heard of LS either. Looking back, we realised I had LS since a child so left undiagnosed and untreated turned to cancer.

What triggered you to start VCUK Awareness? 
As I hadn’t heard of either conditions and no one I told had either, including many health professionals; I started to look on social media for advice and didn’t find anything at first. I then came across a gynaecological charity on twitter which didn’t do much for VC and then found 3 more charities, but they didn’t include VC. So, I decided to start my own awareness group. My first story went viral and many women contacted me to say they had similar symptoms to me and after seeing my story went back to the doctors and mentioned LS which got them diagnosed after years of being told thrush too. I had to keep going and give VC and LS a voice.

What advice would you give women? 

To look at their vulva at least once a month so you know what’s normal for you and report any changes you see to your doctor. If any treatment you are given doesn’t help then go back, and ask to be referred to a specialist as I don’t think that thrush is as common as they may think, as it could be LS. 

What practical tips can you share? 

Check your vulva and keep a diary and photos so can note and compare any changes and what could be causing any flares. If diagnosed with LS then use a emollient regularly as well as a steroid. No one should use perfume products and wear white cotton knickers. 

CHECK YOURSELF OUT LADIES
#knowyourvulva 

An interview with Helen from Lady Days

Lady Days are the way forward for period hygiene?

Helen, what inspired you to develop Lady Days?

Many years ago, cough 21yrs, after the birth of my son. I developed an infection and found disposables intolerable. So, I used some flannels instead which was so much more comfortable and soon discovered they were more absorbent than even the maternity disposable pads I had. 

Once I began to feel better and was more settled into my new mummy role I started hunting for alternative. 

Back then online shopping wasn’t what it was today and I really struggled to find anything. I eventually found a menstrual cup and some white liners. I used them for years successfully but it came to a point where I need new ones and yet again I was just coming across plain white ones. 

That’s when I decided I was going to and try make my own. My mum gave me her vintage sewing machine, which is still in my loft, and I set to making my own pads. 

I never intended to start a business but found that friends were asking for my pads and loving them. It took over 2yrs of research and development to finally have a pad that I thought was good enough to sell. 

I was working full time but circumstances at home meant I need to be home more to support my son. That was the moment that I thought right, let’s see if I can do this. There’s got to be more people out there like me who can benefit for using cloth. 

That was 8 years ago now. 

Lady Days are the way forward for period hygiene?

Did you have experience of running a business before setting up Lady Days

Well, my working background is in retail management. Although I had not run my own business before I had picked up some valuable skills from my previous employers. 

This meant I had a good understanding of keeping figures, setting targets, keeping organised accounts etc so I felt like I had the tools I needed to get started and would learn a lot on my journey. 

What is the best thing about running your own business? What have you found challenging?

There are so many best things. I love that I’m home for my family as my studio is the garage which we converted 3yrs ago. But I love meeting lovely customers online and having chats with them. I get to talk so intimately with them and they trust me to help them with their needs. 

The most challenging thing for me is the technical side of business. Social media, website engineering, digital design etc. I do absolutely everything myself so have had to learn a lot of new skills over the years. Honestly if you told me 9yrs ago that I would be coding a website and designing fabrics and packing I would never had believed it. But here I am doing exactly that and still learning new skills. 

Lady Days are the way forward for period hygiene?

Can you tell us why Lady Days are the way forward for period hygiene?

Cloth alternatives are a world of difference to disposables. Where programmed into thinking that pads should be white, discarded in the trash and hidden away like a dirty secret.

But what we’re not told is that to get those pads so white and sterile looking, they are bleached. This process leaves chemicals and dioxins in the products. Those chemicals draw the blood from your body which can increase blood flow and as a result increase cramping.

Cloth pads do not contain those nasty harsh chemicals and in a large number of cases, people find their periods get lighter and shorter after making the switch. Because of the special fabrics I use my cloth pads are more absorbent than disposable pads and people are shocked at just how much they do hold. 

I’ve spent many years testing fabrics and building relationships with suppliers so that my pads are made with only the best fabrics. 

Cloth pads and period pants are so comfortable you really will forget your wear them. Non of those sticky bits to get stuck, because let’s face it, nobody likes pube snagage right?! 

Once you have enough reusable products to last you a cycle your set. No running out of products and having to dash to the shops. So perfect for peri menopause when you never know when you may start a period, this is me right now. I keep a little pad pod in my bag with a couple of pads in it so I don’t worry. 

And they look great! You can have a cloth pad in a little pad wrapper in your bag and no one would know.

How can using Lady Days help the environment?

Lady Days are reusable, yes, your going to bleed on that pretty fabric and then wash it. But that’s ok, it’s just our own bodily fluids, no different than if we bled on a pair of underwear. We wouldn’t throw them away, they would get washed.

1 Lady Days pad or pair of period pants can replace 250+ disposables. That’s a huge saving for our environment. Even when a Lady Days pad has come to the end of its life, which can be 5yrs or more, it can be broken down and recycled with other fabric waste. 

It makes so much sense. Our beautiful planet is choking in plastic waste we owe it to do what we can to reduce our use of single use plastics. Ditching disposable sanitary products is a great way to help. 

Lady Days Sure, so my main products are cloth menstrual pads that I make in a variety of shapes, sizes and absorbencies. So there’s something to suit everyone.

Can you talk us through your range?

Sure, so my main products are cloth menstrual pads that I make in a variety of shapes, sizes and absorbencies. So there’s something to suit everyone. 

I make period pants that are the most comfortable pants ever! They have a built in pad in them so if you come on unexpectedly your covered. They are also great for those little leaks we sometimes get. 

I have developed an accessories range that compliment cloth pads greatly like reusable wipes and wet bags that are great for storing your reusables in. 

I also make, breast pads and cloth nappies as part of my Baby Days brand. The baby to Lady Days. 

All my products are hand made by me in my little studio in Yorkshire. It’s really important for me to produce all my products and not be tempted to import them. 

When I need things like business cards and packaging I source them from local businesses where possible or nationally if available locally. 

We really need to be mindful of where and how the products we buy are made and support our British industry. 

Lady Days are the way forward for period hygiene?

For more information about Helen’s products please visit her Lady Days website

An interview with the Founder of Menomagic, Steven Crumblehulme

Steven Crumblehulme the founder of Menomagic.

Your Peri Pathway was super excited to interview Steven Crumblehulme the founder of Menomagic.

So, what inspired you to develop menomagic?

My Mum, mostly.  She had suffered with a range of menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, night sweats, sleep problems and anxiety for a number of years.  When I would see her, I would give her a Reflexology treatment, which she always found to be beneficial.  However, we don’t live close to each other, and she would often comment that she wished she could take my hands with her for times when she felt her symptoms.  Mum had always used my homemade hand cream, and so one day, she suggested whether I could come up with a cream that could help with her hot flushes, mainly.  I’d never thought of it, but then one of my clients asked a similar question, so I went about researching which essential oils would be beneficial for symptoms experienced during the menopause.  Finally, I came up with a blend of four essential oils; peppermint to cool, lavender to calm, rose geranium to improve mood and clary sage to balance.  I called it ‘Menomagic’ and gave it to my Mum and a couple of clients as gifts for Christmas.  That was in 2017, and I thought no more of it.

Did you have any experience of making creams oils?

Yes, when I completed my Reflexology training, I did a short blending course.  In this, I learned about blending creams to use in my own treatments – specifically, I created a recipe for a foot, hand and face cream.  All had their own unique blend of essential oils and I have continued to use these with my clients for the various treatments I offer.

menomagic

What actually got you going into making menomagic into a business?

After Christmas of 2017, my Mum called to say she loved the cream and that it really worked for her. She said that, on experiencing a hot flush, she applied it (as I’d suggested) to pulse points, such as the inner wrists, behind the ears and on the neck, to help cool her skin down. 

With the cream, her flushes were only lasting a few seconds, then started to calm down again.  She asked if I’d make some for her friends, whom had also tried it and found it effective.  To my surprise, my clients that had tried it told me a similar story. I decided that this was something that many people could benefit from and so I started to research how to get my blend tested so that I could sell it commercially.  I then launched the cream, now called the ‘all in one cooling cream’ (as it later was found to help with sleep, itchy skin and anxiety) on World Menopause Day, 2018.

Your business has gone from strength to strength! What has been your best highs? What would you have done differently?

It continues to be a high to get positive feedback, especially from those that claim the cream has changed their life, because they hadn’t found anything else that worked for them.  It’s always great to know that it helps so many during peri, menopause and post menopause. I think another high was when we had national press in March 2019.  Mum and I had recorded an interview with a freelance journalist in January of that year, and didn’t hear any more after that.  The day before the news broke, the journalist called me to say our story would be printed in 4 national newspapers online.  The next day, we sold out of all stock in 2 hours, it was unbelievable. 

In terms of what I would have done differently, I think it would have been to keep in contact with the journalist to be better prepared – it took almost two months to process all the sales that continued to build whilst I had more creams made up and, whilst it was great to be so successful, it was very stressful and I wished I’d been more prepared!

menomagic

Can you tell us more about your products?

After the first year, I decided to expand the range slightly, again using Mum as my willing guinea pig.  She decided it would be nice to have a pillow spray, a richer body cream and a face serum.  From customer feedback, I also wanted to have a travel size version of the original ‘cooling cream.’  

So, this led to a 50ml and 15ml size of the ‘all in one cooling cream’ which people find helpful for calming down during a hot flush or night sweat, and many customers rub it into their feet before bed to help them sleep.  The calming aroma of the oils is also great for anxiety.  

The 50ml Marula Oil Facial Serum has oils such as frankincense, apricot, rose damask and rose geranium.  It’s a light serum that can be used as a night oil or during the day with make-up on top.  The oil is great for helping to minimise fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage and its rich in Vitamins C and E to help hydrate and repair skin.

The 100ml pillow spray contains both lavender and rose geranium.  We advise people to spray it onto their pillow and linen a few minutes before bedtime, and the lovely aroma helps to calm and relax you for sleep.

Finally, our 100ml she body butter contains lavender and rose geranium again, and is great for dry, itchy skin – which is a very common symptom of the menopause. 

What other talents do you possess? ie sleep/anxiety

Before getting into complementary therapies, my background was in Psychology.  I have both a Batchelor’s and Master’s degree in Psychology, which I often use to help with aftercare for my clients.  For example, I get many clients coming to me with sleep and anxiety problems, so I’m able to draw on my training to help find solutions that work for them. 

For further information on these amazing products to go www.menomagic.co.uk