Occupational health and safety has a key role to play in helping employers to better support women experiencing menstruation and menopause
The British Standard Institution (BSI) has released new guidance to help organisations retain experienced, talented people of all ages. Menstruation, Menstrual Health and Menopause in the Workplace (BS 30416) aims to dispel misconceptions about menstruation and peri/menopause and offers practical recommendations for workplace adjustments and strategies to accommodate individual needs.
By 2025, one billion people, around 12% of the world’s population, could be going through menopause. Estimates suggest annual global menopause productivity losses already top $150 billion, and that 10% of women experiencing menopause symptoms have left the workforce.
“Organisations which prioritise their people by building an inclusive workplace will be best placed to continue to thrive in the future,” said Anne Hayes, Director of Sectors, BSI. “Many employers want to better support people experiencing menstruation and menopause, but they may face a lack of knowledge of how to do so.”
Hayes said there is “no one-size-fits-all experience of menopause,” but the standard will “address some of the broad challenges and offer practical adjustments to help all colleagues continue to feel valued, motivated and able to remain in the workforce for longer.”
Data suggests thousands of people leave their job during menopause, “contributing to significant productivity losses, robbing organisations of talented people, and removing mentors who can draw on their experience to support newer members of staff,” Hayes added.
The standard provides examples of best practices including policy guidance, work design, workplace culture, and physical work conditions. This may involve assessing the company’s cultural awareness of menstruation and menopause; ensuring employees can have open conversations or request support; offering suitable training for managers; and reviewing the workplace environment to ensure there are facilities such as quiet recovery spaces or discrete changing rooms.
“If we get this right…it has the potential to make the final 10,15 or 20 years of a woman’s career the most productive, exciting and meaningful.”
Helen Tomlinson, Menopause Employment Champion for the UK Government said the standard “will go a long way to ensure that everyone can receive the support they need at this critical time…this transition isn’t a time to step back, step down or step out. If we get this right…it has the potential to make the final 10,15 or 20 years of a woman’s career the most productive, exciting and meaningful.”
Dr Karen Michell, an occupational health specialist at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) which helped form the standard, said it was “a step in the right direction.”
“Menstruation and menopause can and often do have physical, mental and emotional effects on women and their ability to cope with work. Yet very few workplaces and managers are knowledgeable on how to address these issues and the preventive role that occupational health and safety can play. We are keen to ensure that businesses take it on board and use it as part of a rounded approach to managing occupational health risks.”
Louise Hosking, CIEH Executive Director of Environmental Health said, "We very much welcome this new guidance. This will help to socialise conversations around personal health and foster workplace environments where conversations take place which will create supportive working environments for all. The way we work continues to evolve and responsible organisations are already taking steps to create a safe and inclusive culture where the needs of all employees are considered including those who menstruate."
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