While many companies have made great strides toward addressing gender discrimination — such as implementing maternity leave and other family planning policies — employers still lag behind in one area: supporting women who are going through menopause. Menopause’s physical and psychological symptoms can impact work performance when those experiencing symptoms are not properly supported. The lack of attention causes problems both for employees experiencing menopausal symptoms and the companies from whom they work.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 15.5 million women ages 44 to 55 were employed in 2018. While menopause can begin before or after this range, this coincides with the common age range of when menopause typically begins.
The University of Leicester compiled a report that included data from 104 publications over a 26 year time span and revealed that failing to provide employees with adequate resources caused companies to take significant financial hits. The most noteworthy costs came from training and hiring costs incurred to replace vacated positions by those who leave work permanently as a result of menopausal symptoms. The report indicates that productivity loss and absenteeism also account for a large loss of funds — approximately $9.5 million dollars annually.
Fortunately, for those who experience menopause symptoms and for their employers, there are many ways that companies can create workplaces that are more sensitive to the needs of those experiencing menopause. Providing employees with electric fans they control at their discretion is one simple, practical way that companies can provide a more comfortable environment. Allowing schedule flexibility or time off when needed can be another major help. Covering hormone replacement therapy under health insurance, and making wellness resources easily available for employees that also includes information about how to best integrate health practices to ease menopause symptoms are other ways for companies to demonstrate their support. This could include partnering with organizations such as The North American Menopause Society to easily give employees access to accurate information.
Instituting these improvements can decrease productivity loss, help avoid spending over replacements and make the workplace more comfortable for those experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.