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Bosses face legal action unless they support women going through the menopause at work, warns Furley Page

By Chris Price

Bosses in the county need to wake up to the impact of the menopause at work or face legal action, a leading lawyer on the condition has warned.

In an article for Kent Business, Amanda Okill, a senior associate at Canterbury law firm Furley Page, said business owners need to make sure women going through the experience feel comfortable in the workplace.

She called for better education for employers following a government report released in July which highlighted a lack of evidence on issues relating to the menopause at work.

Bosses have been warned they are leaving themselves open to legal action if they do not put policies in place to support women going through the menopause
Bosses have been warned they are leaving themselves open to legal action if they do not put policies in place to support women going through the menopause

However, she acknowledged women must face up to the embarrassment of talking about the transition, saying too many are “handing in their notice without much of a fuss” rather than talking to their boss.

Speaking on business show Chris & Co. on KMTV, she said: “Really we want to see a culture created in workplaces where it’s not an embarrassing topic and that’s easier said than done.

“It’s the embarrassment around it that I think stops employers talking and stops employees feeling confident to come forward.”

A report produced by the Government Equalities Office said the menopause is not well understood by employers and called for “greater organisational attention” on the transition.

Furley Page senior associate Amanda Okill
Furley Page senior associate Amanda Okill

The study, named Menopause Transition: Effects on Women’s Economic Participation, concludes that: “Unlike pregnancy or maternity, the menopause is not well understood or provided for in workplace cultures, policies and training.”

Kathryn Colas founded her business Simply Hormones after going through the transition. She ran a training course for Kent Police last year.

She said: “I resigned from my own job and I knew there was nothing about menopause when I went through that period of my life. I subsequently discovered nobody was doing anything about it either.

“I thought this was a shame because we are faced with an ageing workforce, women are working longer than ever before and they are going through this crazy thing called menopause not understanding it and not recognising it – and neither are their employers.

“If an employer takes the trouble to look at the menopause, they will benefit financially, the workforce will benefit emotionally and financially, and everybody wins.”

Tunbridge Wells life coach Ania Jeffries said tackling the issue of the menopause at work is about education.

Panelist discussed the issue of menopause at work in the second part of this episode

She said: “There is a huge stigma attached to the menopause and the reality is that women in their 40s and 50s don’t feel middle aged these days.

“By 2020, 40% of the workforce will be over the age of 50, so there are going to be more and more women returning to work and setting up businesses. Unless corporations start these conversations, it will make it very difficult for them.”

Ms Okill recommends employers take measures like providing cold drinking water, quiet rest areas and temperature control facilities to support women going through the transition.

Bosses rebuffed any suggestion that the way women are treated may depend on whether their boss is male or female.

"How do you raise it? It’s such a difficult subject and most of us have absolutely no knowledge of what it’s like. It’s a question of empathy..." - Paul Andrews, JIK Software

Paul Andrews, chief executive of JIK Software in Maidstone, said: “It’s not about gender. It’s about empathy.

“It’s a very complex subject. Most employers worry what do they say to someone? You can’t just say ‘are you menopausal?’ How do you raise it? It’s such a difficult subject and most of us have absolutely no knowledge of what it’s like. It’s a question of empathy.”

Ms Okill said: “It’s a very difficult thing to broach with an employee because it’s a sensitive topic and it causes a lot of embarrassment. It’s not something I would recommend you ask outright.

“But you could always ask someone how they are getting on and are they experiencing any difficulties at work or is anything holding them back? Give them an opportunity to share their views first.”

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