"Reflecting the trade union movement’s continued focus on the impact of the menopause on women workers, I welcome and applaud the guidance and the work undertaken by Equity Women’s Committee around the menopause as a core priority.
Women across the entertainment industry face discrimination, stigma and exclusion just because they age and experience those natural processes that occur with the menopause. This is not simply an issue in the UK, but from my involvement with the International Federation of Actors (FIA) I am aware that this is a global issue and one our sister trade unions in FIA are also fighting against.
We will continue to seek to create safe, healthy, inclusive workplaces in collaboration with employers across the entertainment industry, awareness needs to be raised throughout the sector over appropriate choices of costume, make-up, regular breaks, good ventilation and accessible and convenient toilet and shower facilities.
Bearing in mind that so many older women working in the industry who are experiencing menopausal symptoms are also facing the precarity that comes with the status of being freelance, self-employed workers, they already experience less job opportunities due to the sexist and ageist practices in this industry, so the push for better access to work, coupled with the demand for dignity and respect in the workplace is a much needed step forward.
The guidance that Equity has produced forms a positive and constructive contribution to this collaboration. “
Lynda Rooke, Equity President
"There can be no workplace equality for women and other workers of marginalised gender until the menopause, which affects over half the population, is dealt with intelligently, sensitively, and as a matter of course in the workplace.
In an industry which is famously precarious and often involves short-term contracts, it can be difficult for those experiencing the menopause to access the support they need to work safely and well. In many cases, people are still ostracised for experiencing symptoms and feel they need to hide what they are going through — making it even more difficult to access support.
This is partly because the menopause cuts across many other protected characteristics — age, sex and gender, disability, race — which mean that its impact is intensified for many intersectional workers. Speaking up when one’s work is precarious, infrequent, or already difficult can seem almost impossible.
The Women’s Committee believes that workers have a right to a dignified, empowered menopause — and that we are not doing right by our workforce until we enable all workers to work well. One of the advantages to improving our workplaces for those in menopause is that many of the strategies we need to employ (sensitive time-keeping, good ventilation, access to water, etc.) actually contribute to everyone’s well-being.
A workplace that respects and empowers its menopausal workers becomes a better workplace for all its workers. We celebrate employers’ engagement with this resource as a step toward making our industry healthier, safer, and more sustainable — for all of us."
Kelly Burke, Chair, Equity Women’s Committee
This guide has been written as a resource for those working across the entertainment industry who contract artists, crew and the creative team for work, and/or are in a role that influences workplace health, safety and welfare standards. The guidance is written to help influence policy and practice measures that can positively impact the lives of workers who will experience the menopause, or any of the allied conditions associated with ageing.
The guide has been written around three key themes:
- Understanding the menopause, and how it is a workplace issue.
- Insights on good workplace policy and practice measures.
- Providing sample workplace checklists and policy templates.
The guide also helpfully provides a series of signposts to additional resources and guidance that can be drawn upon to help develop a customised approach for the workplace that you help manage.
Why is there a need for this guidance, and why now?
The Fawcett Society has undertaken the largest survey of menopausal women in the UK. The landmark piece of research was published in May 2022[i] and revealed both the shocking lack of workplace support for menopausal women and an accompanying stigma in raising legitimate requests for help at work.
Equity’s own accompanying research conducted in 2021 reflects these findings, specifically a concern amongst menopausal women that any request for support or help would be met with indifference, if not mockery. As one research participant commented, there is a distinct need for awareness raising and specific support measures.
[We need employers to] show awareness that those phases exist and we’re not stupid or hysterical, be human about our distress if it spills out! Make info very visible about where to get help, so we can do this privately and not have to be shamed in public because we’re having problems.
As detailed in Section 4 of this guidance, there are long-standing legal duties that exist to protect women from poor treatment and discrimination. Whilst these duties exist, we hope that this guidance document provides a positive, constructive catalyst to proactively explore the range of awareness raising and support measures that your company or organisation can adopt to ensure that the artists, crew and creative team you work with who experience the menopause feel welcome and supported.
The menopause is part of the natural ageing process for women. Commonly known as ‘the change’, it refers to the point in time when a woman stops having periods. It is defined as when menstruation has ceased for twelve consecutive months and a woman has reached the end of her reproductive life. This is known as a ‘natural menopause’, when the ovaries have stopped producing eggs and hormones fall below certain levels. After a woman has not had a period for a year, she can be described as ‘post-menopausal’.
The menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. In the UK, the average age is 51, but it can happen much earlier. Many women experience the menopause before 45 (early menopause) and a significant number of women experience the menopause before the age of 40 (this is known as a premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency).
Often, people assume that the menopause mainly affects women in their late forties or early fifties. Although it is true that the menopause usually occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55, this is just an average as many women experience the menopause at a younger age due to an early, premature, surgical or medical menopause. It is important to remember that many trans people also experience the menopause.
The NHS estimates that around 1 in every 100 women will experience a premature menopause, before the age of 40. In some cases it can happen to women in their teens or twenties. In many cases there is no clear cause of a premature menopause.
Medical or surgical menopause
Some women experience a medical or surgical menopause which can occur at any age when the ovaries are damaged by specific treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery. This can happen as a result of cancer treatments, for example. A surgical menopause can also occur when a woman’s ovaries are removed as part of a hysterectomy.
The peri-menopause is the period of hormonal change leading up to the menopause. This is the time when many women start to experience symptoms. The peri-menopause can often last for four to five years although for some women it may continue for many more years or for others last just a few months. In general, periods usually start to become less frequent over this time, sometimes menstrual cycles become shorter, periods may become heavier or lighter or women may notice that the odd period is missed until eventually they stop altogether. However, sometimes they can stop suddenly.
The Menopause and LGBT+ Health
The menopause can be perceived as specifically a ‘problem’ for women, and it is factually (and practically) important that employers and managers understand that this is not the case.
In appreciating this, and the relevant language involved, it is important first to understand that cisgender (or cis for short) people are those who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, people who were born female and still identify as female would be known as cisgender women.
Transgender (or trans) people are individuals whose gender identity doesn’t match that which they were assigned at birth.
Non-binary people are individuals who do not identify as solely male or female and use pronouns other than he/him or she/her. Most commonly they will identify as they/them as they fall outside of the gender binary.
With this in mind, we need to realise that cis women aren’t the only ones who suffer from menopause-related symptoms and issues. Transgender men (who have not fully transitioned) and non-binary individuals will also go through menopause, though it is often overlooked. People producing estrogen and progesterone will start to produce less and less as they get older which is the typical catalyst for menopause.
Also, if a transgender person decides to go through a transition with prescribed testosterone hormones late in life, they may already be of an age where their bodies are naturally going through menopause.
Similarly, for transgender men who do not use hormone therapy at all, their bodies will still be producing the reproductive hormones that trigger menopause.
This can be a difficult time as people will be going through both the usual menopause symptoms as well as any gender dysphoria they may experience at the same time.
Gender dysphoria is the feeling of discomfort or distress that might be caused by a mismatch between a person’s biological sex and gender identity.
For some people, this can be a very minor issue. However, for many, it can have a major impact on their day-to-day lives leading to depression, body dysmorphia and other mental health issues.
With these concerns in mind, different people in the LGBTQ+ community may feel especially uncomfortable with changes to their bodies during menopause, such as weight gain, loss of muscle mass and bone density, hot flushes and night sweats.
As a result, it is critically important that workplace policy and practice provide support to artists experiencing the menopause, and adopt an approach that acknowledges that people of differing sexes and genders may legitimately seek support.
Good practice in implementing support measures (and as detailed in the checklists in Section 8) would be to provide this support as standard health, safety and welfare practice across the workplace, rather than this being seen as menopause-specific.
What are the symptoms of the menopause?
During the time of the peri-menopause women may begin to experience symptoms due to changes in their hormone levels. The severity of these symptoms may vary in different individuals from mild to very significant.
Women may find that their symptoms change and other symptoms may develop over time.
Symptoms women commonly report can include:
- Hot flushes and palpitations
- Night sweats (increased sweating may also be experienced during the day)
- Insomnia and sleep disturbances
- Poor concentration
- Joint aches
- Skin irritation and dryness
- Dry eyes
- Urinary problems
- Hair loss
- Changes to periods such as irregular, heavy bleeding or painful periods
- Vaginal dryness, itching and discomfort
- Loss of libido
There may also be associated psychological symptoms including:
- Panic attacks
- Mood swings
- Problems with memory
- Loss of confidence
Because they may still be having regular periods when they first start to get symptoms, many women do not always realise that they are experiencing the peri-menopause and may not understand what is causing their symptoms. This can be a barrier to accessing support.
Women may experience only some or all of these symptoms, and some may experience other, less common symptoms that don’t appear on this list. Around 80 per cent of women will experience noticeable symptoms but some women do not experience any.
Many women find that their symptoms are interconnected. For example, sleep disturbance can be caused by night sweats or anxiety women feel during the menopause. Sleep loss itself can lead to irritability, lack of concentration and may worsen depression.
How long do symptoms of the menopause last?
The length of time that symptoms last can vary significantly between different women. Menopausal symptoms can begin months or even years before a woman’s period stop, during the time known as the peri-menopause (the time of hormonal change leading up to the menopause).
The perimenopause often lasts around 4 to 5 years, but in some cases it can last many more years — or it may only last a few months. According to the NHS, on average, women continue to experience symptoms for four years after their last period, but around 10 per cent of women continue to experience symptoms for up to 12 years after their last period.
HRT and other treatments for the menopause
Some women seek medical advice and treatment for the symptoms of the peri-menopause and menopause. A common form of treatment is known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Many women find these treatments helpful for alleviating symptoms, but as with all medications there are benefits and risks and HRT is not suitable or appropriate for all women.
Medical advice and supervision is required and side effects can be experienced. Whilst many women report finding HRT very effective, some women find that the side effects of HRT can also cause problems at work.
Side effects that women report include:
- Breast tenderness or swelling
- Swelling in other parts of the body
- Leg cramps
- Vaginal bleeding
The continuing poor experience of women members related to the menopause led to Equity’s Women’s Committee prioritising the production of this industry guidance. Part of this work included a survey of Equity members. Here are some of the comments made by survey participants about their workplace experience, to help underline the need for significant improvement in workplace policy and practice.
When asked what their experience of the workplace was, survey participants said:
"Co-workers would point out that I was sweating and laugh."
"Very subtle eyebrows [are] raised when I can't easily/instantly remember choreography or lines. I felt I couldn’t share anything because my symptoms were not "allowed" to be talked about."
"I was ridiculed due to my AGE and GENDER which was harder to deal with due to being peri menopausal."
"An atmosphere of disinterest or lack of concern so I felt embarrassed and worried it would affect my employment so I kept quiet."
"They didn't really understand, thought I was skyving , and not helpful when I was bleeding heavily and needed to get out of the rehearsal room."
"I think they simply had no idea that women who are older get this problem - they were all young."
"I couldn't tell them the reasons why I was tired and had poor memory."
"Lack of patience towards myself and others and received a total lack of respect from younger bosses. I never said what I was going through."
"I tried to keep it a secret at work."
"Other members of cast pointing out me being a bit slower to catch the lines and follow choreography leading to jokes with jibes like ‘ahh it’s your age , you’ll be losing your marbles next!’, ‘we will just move on “you know who can catch up in her own time”. Makeup artist asked the director ‘what are we going to do about her face, it’s very red isn’t it?’, ‘oh that’s her age’. All statements made in front of me and the rest of the cast."
"The most debilitating thing is being tired from coping with all the other symptoms. And feeling embarrassed about being bright red in the face and sweating."
"I kept it hidden as much as possible."
"Crass "Old Lady" jokes and shaming over embarrassing symptoms."
When asked was needed to help improve the workplace experience of artists experiencing the menopause, survey participants said:
"Time and understanding."
"Education about the menopause and the many challenging physical aspects of hormonal imbalance and change. Puberty in reverse."
"Talk more about it. Companies should have to make space to support and understand women going through perimenopause and menopause. Normalise the discussion. Give value to those women. Educate their companies to have more understanding, empathy and unconditional positive regard for those women."
"To view menopause as a natural stage of life, and potential benefit."
"Drive home how the chemical switches in our brains affect behaviour and physicality. Drive home that these are phases of life that are challenging, and which ultimately open into richer and stronger capability."
"Additional time allowance, e.g. access to the script in advance."
"Awareness of symptoms and open dialogue with employers, use of training for everyone not just the people experiencing the symptoms."
"Mandatory education for managers and employees of all genders to help make up for previous lack of education."
"Raise Awareness and take away the stigma. I was too embarrassed to say anything for fear of being treated like an old lady."
"Give women a safe space to say they are going through these things without fear of judgement so that something can be done to ease things. More chance for women to say they are struggling."
"Reminding people that we exist in and through bodies. That bodies change as the seasons do."
"Give guidance to employers to offer support especially with regards to costume, it can be difficult when wearing very hot/heavy/period costume. Make sure water is available, space is well ventilated, costumes are not going to exacerbate symptoms."
"Make it clear that there is a spirit of openness and willingness to listen to those experiencing symptoms so that women feel they can discuss their situations freely."
"Share information on menopause to cast and crew."
"Understanding, time, and the ability to communicate the issue without judgement. Bring the subject into the open. Make sure employers and co-workers are aware of the issues associated with menopause (and peri)."
"It’s already hard for older women to get work which is not the same for men. That increases the anxiety level. We pretend everything is alright, struggle some days to learn a few lines and worry that all men and younger women think we are past it. So I could cope with menopause if I didn’t have all these other problems. The industry needs a shake in terms of how it views women in every sense. Only then can you even begin to look at menopause."
Industry employers and managers should make sure they have steps, procedures and support in place to help artists, crew and creative team members affected by the menopause.
Having regular conversations with staff and listening to their concerns might help resolve issues early on before any potential legal action is taken.
Employers should make sure they know how the menopause relates to the law, including the:
- Equality Act 2010, which protects workers against discrimination
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which says an employer must, where reasonably practical, ensure everyone's health, safety and welfare at work
The menopause is not a specific protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, but if an employee or worker is put at a disadvantage and treated less favourably because of their menopause symptoms, this could be discrimination related to a protected characteristic, for example:
- gender reassignment
Employees and workers are protected from being put at a disadvantage or treated less favourably because of their age. This could include less favourable treatment because they're going through the menopause, because it is usually related to the age of the person.
It's important for industry employers and managers to remember that age discrimination and harassment can also affect younger people who go through medical or early menopause. For example, it could be age discrimination if a colleague makes a rude joke about young people going through the menopause, and similarly, that their condition was not treated seriously given their age.
In some cases, the menopause could be considered a disability under discrimination law.
If someone is disabled, their employer must make reasonable adjustments to reduce or remove any disadvantages they might experience because of it. For example, this might include agreeing to record absence because of the menopause separately from other sickness absence.
It is always more favourable for industry employers and managers to focus on supporting the person, rather than trying to work out if someone's condition is a disability.
If someone affected by the menopause is put at a disadvantage and treated less favourably because of something related to their disability, this could be 'discrimination arising from disability'.
Gender reassignment discrimination
Gender reassignment is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if they are planning to go through, are going through or have gone through a process (or part of a process) to reassign their sex. This could be by changing physical or other attributes related to sex.
In the Equality Act 2010, the term 'transsexual' is used to describe people with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. Many people prefer to use the word 'trans' or 'transgender' rather than 'transsexual'.
If an industry employer or manager puts an employee or worker at a disadvantage or treats them less favourably because they have, or someone thinks they have, the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, this could be discrimination.
Unfair treatment to an employee or worker because of their sex could lead to a discrimination claim.
Employers should also be aware that unwanted behaviour about someone's menopause symptoms could count as harassment or sexual harassment depending on the nature of the behaviour.
Health, safety and welfare
The menopause is essentially a workplace health, safety and welfare matter, and a review of existing practice and development of specific policy, should be seen from this perspective.0
The Health and Safety at Work Act requires employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their workers, and they are required to do risk assessments under the Management Regulations which should include any specific risks to menopausal women if they are employed.
Risk assessments should consider the specific needs of menopausal women and ensure that the working environment will not make their symptoms worse. Issues that need looking at include temperature, ventilation, toilet facilities and access to cold water. It is important that workplace stress is also considered and addressed properly using the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stress management standards.
Adopting a sex and gender focus
Being aware of gender-specific issues in occupational health and safety ensures industry employers and managers can more confidently work towards workplaces that are safer and healthier for everyone. This is because, where the differences between men and women (such as the menopause) are acknowledged when assessing risk and deciding suitable risk control solutions, there is a greater chance of ensuring that the health, safety and welfare of all workers is protected.
The menopause affects all women at some stage. In the findings of the Equity survey (and other research) all participants stated that poorly adapted workplace environments and practices made symptoms worse. The menopause is a key issue that needs to be addressed as part of a sex and gender sensitive approach to health and safety.
In the following sections of this guidance we have produced insights to good practice in developing a menopause friendly workplace.
Multiple resources exist, as shown in Sections 5 and 7 of this guidance, to help support the review of existing workplace health, safety and welfare measures from a menopause friendly perspective. Similarly, the checklists outlined in Section 6, provide insight on practical measures adopted to provide safe, inclusive working environments for workers experiencing the menopause and/or a series of related conditions.
In broad terms, however (and as articulated by those Equity members completing the union’s 2021 survey), there is a good practice range of supportive measures that are known to generate a bespoke workplace culture, supported by committed leadership and management.
It is important those in positions of leadership and management appreciate the features of the menopause from an occupational health, safety and welfare perspective. This perspective will allow for the modification of existing health and safety measures to ensure a customised approach which can both manage risk and cater for individual need. This awareness and understanding can then be cascaded to those in frontline roles as part of wider awareness raising strategy.
The stigma associated with the menopause (and with mental health illness etc.) can only be addressed when organisational culture can confidently and sensitively address its existence as a feature of working life to be accepted and supported. The approach here should be mainstreamed across those working for a company on an employed, self-employed and contractor basis.
As shown in Section 5 of this guidance, it is considered good practice to draw together core elements of menopause friendly working practice in a policy document. Awareness of the policy, and its dissemination to cast, crew and the creative team, is a key measure to support a positive, inclusive working culture. The policy should reference all aspects of health, safety and welfare management, and include the commitment to features outlined here, i.e. training, awareness raising, etc.
Ensure that workers know how they can request support
Whether as a employee, worker, or contractor, the policy should identify how those working for the organisation can be made aware of its menopause-friendly working culture, and how they may request individual support where this is required. Allied to matters of training and awareness raising, all staff who are natural contact points for any such conversation should be comfortable to respond in a supportive, constructive manner.
This is an example of how a workplace menopause policy might look, based on some examples of existing policies negotiated with trade unions, and as a means to support good hormonal health. It is provided as a resource for employers looking to develop and adopt their own policies, to give some ideas about what a policy could include. It should be adapted as needed to reflect the issues in different workplaces. It should not necessarily be used as ‘model’ suitable for all workplaces as customisation is required to meet specific contexts and needs. Similarly, workplace risk assessments should reflect the sex and gender composition of a workforce, and should be tailored to provide specific safeguards.
These sections are helpful starting points.
Table of contents
This policy recognises that women may need additional consideration, support and adjustments before, during and after the menopause.
(Organisation’s name) is committed to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and with dignity and respect in their working environment. It is also committed to ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of the workforce. (Organisation’s name) has a positive attitude to the menopause and will work proactively to make adjustments where necessary to support those experiencing the menopause and to ensure the workplace does not make their symptoms worse.
The aim of this policy is to make managers aware of the (organisation’s name)’s responsibility to understand the menopause and related issues and how they can affect staff. It also aims to raise wider awareness and understanding among employees and to outline support and reasonable adjustments that are available.
(Organisation’s name) aims to create an environment where those experiencing the menopause feel confident to raise issues about their symptoms and ask for reasonable adjustments at work. The organisation is committed to ensuring that conditions in the workplace do not make menopausal symptoms worse and that appropriate adjustments and support are put in place. This organisation takes a proactive stance and will promote a greater understanding of the menopause and seek to eradicate any exclusionary or discriminatory practices. This policy and supporting guidance is intended to provide clarity and direction on how (organisation’s name) should deal with menopause related issues, either for individuals experiencing the menopause or those who are affected indirectly, for example partners, colleagues or line managers.
The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) requires employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all workers. Under the Act, employers are required to do risk assessments under the Management Regulations which should include specific risks to menopausal workers if they are employed. The Equality Act (2010) prohibits discrimination against people on the grounds of certain ‘protected characteristics’ including sex, age and disability. It is also important to note that conditions linked to the menopause may meet the definition of an ‘impairment’ under the Equality Act and require reasonable adjustments.
It will be recognised that the menopause is a very individual experience and that people can be affected in different ways and to different degrees, therefore different levels and types of support and adjustments may be needed. Appropriate information/support will be provided to all workers with regards to the menopause.
Working with Equity, working conditions, practices and policies will be reviewed and adjusted to take account of the difficulties that some people experience during the menopause. Risk assessments will be carried out which take the specific needs of menopausal workers into consideration (including stress risk assessments).
Adjustments to working conditions will be proactively put in place. Training and awareness raising sessions will be provided for all managers and staff. A confidential named point of contact/support will be provided whom workers can speak to for support for any issues that arise due to the menopause.
The menopause is part of the natural ageing process for women, and trans and non-binary workers als.. Commonly known as ‘the change’, it refers to the point in time when menstruation has ceased for twelve consecutive months and a woman has reached the end of her reproductive life. After a woman has not had a period for a year, she can be described as ‘post-menopausal’.
The peri-menopause, which is the period of hormonal change leading up to the menopause, can often last for four to five years although for some women it may continue for many more years or for others last just a few months. The duration of the peri-menopause varies greatly in different individuals. During the time of the perimenopause women may begin to experience symptoms due to changes in their hormone levels. These symptoms may vary in degree between different individuals from mild to very significant. Because they may still be having regular periods at the onset of symptoms, many women do not always realise that they are experiencing the peri-menopause and may not understand what is causing their symptoms. This can be a barrier to accessing support.
Physical symptoms associated with the onset of the peri-menopause can include:
insomnia and sleep disturbances
dry skin and skin irritation
increased perspiration during the day
vaginal dryness, itching and discomfort
irregular and/or heavy, painful periods, clots and flooding
There may also be associated psychological symptoms including:
changes to mood
problems with memory
loss of confidence
Workers may experience only some or all of these symptoms (and others not on this list). Most menopausal people will experience some symptoms, but some do not experience any noticeable symptoms. On average, people continue to experience symptoms for four years after their last period, but around 10 per cent of women experience symptoms for up to 12 years after their last period. Beyond the menopause, due to lower levels of certain hormones, post-menopausal women can be at an increased risk of certain conditions such as developing osteoporosis (‘brittle bones’) and heart disease. These risks increase for those who have an early or premature menopause.
This organisation recognises that a large and increasing proportion of its workers will be working through and well beyond the menopause. In the UK it is estimated that around 1 in 3 women are either currently going through or have reached the menopause. The menopause affects all women, and it can often indirectly affect their partners, families and colleagues as well.
The menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. In the UK, the average age is 51, but it can happen much earlier. Many women experience the menopause before 45 (early menopause) and a significant number of women experience the menopause before the age of 40 (premature menopause). Some women experience a medical/ surgical menopause which can occur suddenly when the ovaries are damaged or removed by specific treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery.
It should be noted that people from the non-binary, transgender and intersex communities may also experience menopausal symptoms. Due to a variety of factors, the experience of the menopause may be different for those among these communities. Experiences and perceptions of the menopause may also differ in relation to disability, age, race, religion, sexual orientation or marital/civil partnership status. It is important to recognise that for many reasons, people’s individual experiences of the menopause may differ greatly.
Some women seek medical advice and treatment for the symptoms of the peri-menopause and menopause. A common form of treatment is known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Many women find these treatments helpful for alleviating symptoms, but HRT is not suitable or appropriate for all women. Some women using HRT may experience side effects which may also require adjustments in the workplace.
This policy recognises that there are many workplace factors which can make working life more difficult for workers experiencing the menopause and which may make symptoms worse. These include:
Lack of suitable gender sensitive risk assessments
Lack of awareness of the menopause
Lack of management training on women’s health issues
Lack of management training on LGBT+ and trans health issues
Poor ventilation and air quality
Inadequate access to drinking water
Inadequate or non-existent toilet/washing facilities
Lack of control of temperature/light
Lack of appropriate uniforms or personal protective equipment (PPE)
Inflexible working time rules or break times
Inflexible policies which penalise workers because of their symptoms
Unsympathetic line management/colleagues
Bullying and harassment
This organisation is committed to ensuring that the above factors are eliminated from this workplace and to taking proactive steps to ensure conditions in the workplace do not make workers’ menopausal symptoms worse.
It is recognised that the menopause is a very personal experience and different adjustments and levels of support may be needed for different individuals. This organisation is committed to ensuring that line managers are sympathetic and provide appropriate support and adjustments when needed to help workers deal with issues arising from the menopause.
Access to support
Alternative point of contact/support
Although all managers are expected to take a positive and supportive approach towards discussions about the menopause, this organisation understands that some individual staff members who are affected may feel uncomfortable talking directly to their line manager if they are experiencing problems, especially if the line manager is male or much younger. Therefore the organisation has made other options available including x person in x department (e.g. a trained person from HR, OH, Employee Assistance Service). The organisation also understands that people may wish to approach another manager whom they trust or that they may wish to approach their Equity Deputy for support.
Menopause action and support group
A Menopause Action and Support Group is available to access within the workplace and is open to any member of staff affected by issues linked to the menopause (directly or indirectly). The group is organised by x . The group meets on a x basis, and aims to provide a confidential and supportive forum for those affected by the menopause to access peer support and share knowledge and information. It also provides an opportunity for those affected by the menopause to provide input into the development and review of relevant workplace policies that may have an impact on menopausal workers.
Risk assessments Managers should ensure risk assessments consider the specific requirements of menopausal workers and ensure that the working environment is suitable and will not make their symptoms worse. The risk assessment will assist with the identification of any potential adjustments which may be required. Managers should use the menopause risk assessment checklist as a guide but also take account of any additional issues raised by individuals affected. Common issues that need consideration are workplace temperature and ventilation, access to adequate toilet and washing facilities and sources of workplace stress such as workload.
Discretion in the implementation of existing policies
The effects of the menopause and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) should be taken in to account in the implementation of sickness absence, capability, disciplinary and performance policies to ensure that menopausal workers are not unfairly penalised and do not experience detrimental treatment as a result of their symptoms.
Flexible working arrangements
Changes to working time arrangements should be made available where needed including adjustments to start/finish times, reduced hours, options for home working, additional breaks and leave should be granted at short notice where necessary.
Current NHS health advice to women highlights the importance of lifestyle choices before, during and after the menopause and the benefits of:
Healthy eating – research has shown that a balanced diet can help alleviate some symptoms and help keep bones healthy.
Drinking plenty of water; some people find chilled water helpful
Wearing natural fibres
Exercising regularly – exercise can help to reduce hot flushes and improve sleep. It can also help boost mood and maintain strong bones.
Consulting with a GP on the management of the menopause and to ensure that any symptoms are not due to any other causes.
Cutting down caffeine, alcohol and spicy food.
Having access to natural light.
Gender checklist on occupational safety and health
People come in all shapes and when it comes to health and safety the “one size fits all” approach just does not apply. Nowhere is that clearer than when we are looking at sex and gender. This checklist is not intended to be a comprehensive list of specific issues relating to sex, gender and the menopause. Instead, it suggests what workplace leaders and managers should periodically review to make sure that the relevant issues in the workplace are identified and addressed in a gender sensitive way.
Are risk assessments carried out and implemented on a periodic basis?
Do risk assessments take account of sex and gender differences?
Have all people involved in risk assessment and risk management been trained to be aware of sex and gender differences affecting health and safety at work?
Are sex and gender differences taken into account in COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health), risk assessments, including the greater likelihood that women will be exposed to chemicals at home?
Are sex and gender differences taken into account in manual handling risk assessments and in assessments of postural problems including prolonged standing or sitting?
Are sex and gender differences taken into account with all relevant types of work equipment and work stations use?
Are sex and gender differences taken into account when dealing with staff uniform, official workwear or personal protective equipment (PPE) issues at the workplace?
Are risk assessments relating to expectant, new and nursing mothers (and the unborn or breastfeeding child) carried out properly and in good time?
Do employers provide an appropriate private space for breastfeeding mothers to express milk, and also provide a safe and hygienic place for the milk to be stored?
Are any special reproductive health concerns, such as issues relating to fertility or menstruation (including providing female sanitary hygiene disposal facilities), menopause, breast cancer or hysterectomy adequately and sensitively addressed?
Are risks of violence assessed, including concerns about working alone on site, away, or late into the evening, and access to safe parking or transport home?
Are harassment (including sexual harassment) and bullying treated as health and safety issues?
Does the employer allow for flexibility with working time, overtime and shift work to accommodate employees’ life demands from outside of work, such as family, medical, etc.?
Does the employer recognise stress as a workplace issue and that it may affect different people in different ways?
Does the employer recognise that domestic violence can become an issue at the workplace and treat the matter as a safety, health and welfare issue which needs to be dealt with sympathetically and practically?
Sickness absence management and investigation
Does the employer have a sickness absence management policy or workplace agreement that was negotiated with Equity?
Is the policy applied fairly in practice and not used just to cut sickness absence but to fairly address any underlying issues and help recovery with an appropriate return to work?
Is the sickness absence management policy or workplace agreement fair and non-discriminatory and does it ensure that workers are not disadvantaged because of issues relating to menstruation, pregnancy, miscarriage, disability, or the menopause by ensuring that they can be treated separately from other sickness absence?
Does the policy and practice ensure that any work-related health problems are properly investigated with a review of risk assessments where necessary?
Do health and safety representatives get regular reports from management on sickness absence, including a gender breakdown?
Reporting and monitoring procedures
Does the employer ensure all workers are made aware of the importance of reporting injuries, incidents, work-related ill health and health problems made worse by work, in an environment where employees feel they will not be victimised for reporting them?
Are all injuries, incidents (including near misses) and work-related health problems reported?
Does data on injuries and ill health include sex and gender and does it differentiate, not only between women and men, but also between different jobs and job levels and between different shift patterns?
Are trends in the ill-health and sickness absence statistics analysed as well as trends in injuries and near misses?
Are all injury and ill health statistics systematically reviewed at joint safety committee meetings?
Where any issue of concern is found from the meetings’ deliberations are health concerns given the same priority as safety concerns?
Sample menopause risk assessment checklist
The table below gives an example of a workplace risk assessment checklist on the menopause that could be included in a menopause-specific risk assessment. An employer or manager may opt to include a relevant sample from this checklist in a standard risk assessment exercise if they are confident that this suitably complements the standard range of questions.
This checklist is not intended to be a comprehensive list of specific issues relating to the menopause for every workplace, but provides some common examples of what employers could look at to make sure that the relevant issues around the menopause in the workplace are identified and addressed.
The table below omits the standard columns found on a risk assessment form (i.e. what is already being done to minimise risk, what more action is needed? etc.), but instead illustrates the range of hazards posed when assessing menopause-specific risks, and the relevant consideration to be taken into account under core headings for example health and safety management
Health and safety management
|What are the hazards||What are the considerations|
Information on menopause
Does the employee have access to information on menopause, relevant policies on attendance management, etc?
Is there the facility for those who are not able to attend work due to menopausal symptoms to report these to a (female) manager or other point of contact?
Is there the facility for those who are not able to attend work due to menopausal symptoms to report these to a (female) manager or other point of contact?
Occupational Health Arrangements
Has the employee been made aware of what facilities are in place for OH referral and support to remain in the workplace – do they need a referral?
Are work stations / locations easily accessible to sanitary and rest facilities?
Are there private washing and changing facilities available?
Is there access to sanitary products?
Do rotas, shifts and schedules ensure that workers have easy access to free sanitary products and washing facilities?
Is the employee/employer aware of the workplace maximum and minimum temperature and is it implemented?
Is ventilation available and is it regularly maintained?
Is additional ventilation provided if necessary?
How is this implemented?
Do costumes and PPE equipment reflect the needs of the individual?
How is this implemented? Do uniforms and PPE equipment reflect the needs of the individual?
Are the clothes provided made of natural fibres?
Have workstation risk assessments been reviewed to take menopause into account?
Are there opportunities to switch to lighter or different duties?
Do manual handling assessments take any issues around menopause into account?
Are there flexible arrangements in place in relation to breaks?
Can start and finish times be adjusted as part of a flexible working agreement?
Is the role suitable for agile working – if not why not?
Is there access to natural light?
Have work processes been assessed to see if any reasonable adjustments are needed?
British Menopause Society
Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
Healthtalk.org www.healthtalk.org/peoples-experiences/later-life/ menopause/topics
Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Women’s Health Concerns
The Menopause Exchange
Menopause Support UK
The Daisy Network
Menopause in the Workplace
In compiling this guidance the Committee would first like to thank that members of Equity who completed the menopause survey in 2021 that sought to gather insight on the experience of women members working across the industry. It is the clear ambition of the Committee that this guidance (and Equity’s wider work around improving the health, safety and welfare of members) contributes to the mainstreaming of safe, healthy, inclusive workplaces.
The Committee would also like to thank the Independent Theatre Council (ITC) (and specifically the support of Charlotte Jones (Chief Executive) and Zoe Bateman (General Manager) for their own work around menstruation and menopause awareness amongst ITC members, and support for the development and launch of this guidance.
The Committee would like to acknowledge those organisations and resources that have been drawn upon to help develop this guidance, notably the Trades Union Congress (TUC), and also ACAS, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).