Menstrual & Menopause Health
FSU launched a comprehensive workplace guidance policy on the Menopause called You Don’t Just Go Through the Menopause At Home. This followed on from an earlier survey on Workplace Menopause.
You Don't Just Go Through Menopause At Home
The document argues that Menopause is a workplace issue and employers need to adopt a workplace policy which deals with the issue in a compassionate and professional manner.
Speaking at the launch of the document Mandy La Combre, Senior Industrial Relations Officer with the FSU said:
“Despite pressure from unions, some employers have been slow to recognise that special consideration is required for women suffering through menopause in the workplace. It is important both workers and employers are informed and aware of how symptoms can affect the ability to conduct one’s job, and how workplace environments can sometimes exasperate symptoms.
Menopause has long been viewed as strictly a ‘private and personal matter’ shrouded in stigma, but with more women than ever in the workplace employers have a responsibility to consider the difficulties women may experience during menopause.
The FSU have successfully campaigned for a Menopause policy in the main retail Banks, and we welcome the progressive approach taken by Danske, AIB, Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland in agreeing workplace policy on the Menopause with the FSU.
The Government have launched an awareness campaign which we support. We urge all employers to treat the Menopause as an important workplace issue and show leadership in supporting women who are dealing with the symptoms of Menopause.
This support needs to include up to 10 days paid leave and training and education for staff and management.
The FSU Guidance policy sets out a draft policy that employers can adopt which can finally put behind us decades of women feeling isolated and alone, suffering through symptoms in work with no support “
Click on thumbnail for the report or go to www.gov.ie/menopause
The Governemnt's website and resources addressing menopause.
Workplace Menopause Survey
Throughout 2021 Financial Services Union have been doing considerable work in the area of menopause, carrying out research, writing workplace policies, and surveying our members in the sector to get their views on how the menopause has affected their working lives. What has become glaringly obvious is just how slow employers have been to recognise that women of menopausal age may need special consideration. The menopause is a natural stage of life for women, symptoms range from mild to severe, so some workers require more support than others. This can be a difficult and stressful time for workers, and in the majority of cases employers are just not dealing with the issue appropriately. It is common for those suffering in the workplace not to raise the issue with their employer as there is a fear of stigma associated with menopause. There is often a belief that symptoms are not taken seriously or highlighting a need for support may have a negative affect on performance reviews.
The FSU menopause workplace survey (carried out in the summer of 2021), illustrates some staggering findings;
- 89.4% of respondents say menopause affects working life
- Only 15% feel comfortable talking about menopause in work
- 97.5% do not have a workplace policy and would welcome one
- 38% say menopause is treated as a joke in their workplace
- Only 17% say that menopause is ‘not’ treated negatively in the workplace
- 84% are currently experiencing or likely to experience menopause
Women make up more than 50% of the workforce in Ireland & Northern Ireland, given that the age demographic in both jurisdictions is showing that an aging workforce is on the rise, it is critical to ensure safer more inclusive working conditions to also support longer working lives.
All the organisations where FSU members were surveyed claim to have diversity and inclusion agenda’s yet lacking any support for women suffering in the workplace as a result of menopause, flies in the face of these policies and feeds into the stereotyping of older people and persistent and widespread ageism. Only 2.8% of those surveyed expressed that their employer had a policy in place and over 6,000 comments were made by members outlining how menopause affects working life, how a serious lack of support from employers and a lack of education and awareness has made working through menopause very difficult. Menopause being treated negatively in the workplace and often-times simply dismissed as a ‘joke’, has led to some women opting to go on sick leave or in some cases consider leaving work altogether.
FSU are currently seeking employers to actively engage in the creation of robust menopause workplace policies and have already started negotiating with some employers in this regard. FSU will also produce a menopause workplace charter to establish good practice in this area, to offer advice and support to members and workplace reps, and to outline practical support measures for employers.
As a Union we believe that highlighting this issue and educating our members and their employers will help to remove barriers that have existed for many years in the workplace in relation to menopause and the ageism that permeates employments as a result. It is our goal to break the stigma that exists in the workplace around menopause and improve the working lives of our members.
Mandy La Combre, Senior Industrial Relations Officer
Menstrual Workplace Survey 2023
What are the symptoms associated with menstruation and the menopause?
Many people suffer mild to severe symptoms whilemenstruating or experiencing menopause, which canrequire extraordinary measures to mitigate.
These symptoms often include:
MENSTRUATION • abdominal cramping • some medical conditions cause severe or debilitating pain • heavy bleeding • nausea • migraines • mood swings • feeling depressed • irritability • tiredness • bloating • breast tenderness
MENOPAUSE • hot flushes & palpitations • night sweats • difficulty sleeping & insomnia • fatigue • bleeding or painful periods • changes in periods/ heavy or irregular • poor concentration • lack of energy • low mood, depression or anxiety • problems with memory or concentration • headaches • joint aches & pains • recurring UTIs • skin irritation/dryness • taking longer to get over an illness • weight gain
Why is this important in the workplace?
The stigma surrounding periods and the menopause ispreventing people from discussing ways to improve theirquality of life in the workplace. If a worker doesn’t get thesupport and help that is needed, it may be increasinglylikely that the effects of menstruation / menopause willmake them feel ill, lead to increased absenteeism, loseconfidence to carry out their job, suffer work performanceissues, or suffer from mental health conditions such asstress, anxiety, and depression, and potentially leave theirjob. Removing the stigma around periods and educatingemployers are essential to ensuring period dignity at work.
What can your workplace do to improve?
- Implement and communicate a menstrual health workplace policy
- Training for managers on medical conditions that have painful menstrual symptoms and training for all staff on period stigma
- Reasonable accommodation or special leave for medical conditions that cause severe or debilitating symptoms
- Absence related to menstrual medical conditions not triggering performance improvement plan
- Option to work from home during a bad period
- Access to flexibile working when required
- Additional rest breaks if needed
- Environmental supports eg: office temperature, desk fans, breathable uniform fabrics, access to wash facilities, free period products