Channel 4 has become the first UK media company to launch a menopause policy for their employees in an effort to break down the taboo subject and foster a more supportive working environment for those going through the transition.
The scheme is implementing cool work spaces to ease symptoms such as hot flushes, flexible working hours and sick leave if workers fell unwell. Additionally, the policy will include menopause awareness briefings to its leadership and HR teams to encourage a more open and supportive conversation in the workplace.
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 59% of women report that menopausal symptoms have a negative effect on their work. The introduction of this policy is another step towards demonstrating that workplaces can be friendly towards women's bodies: vital if women are to have equal access to the workforce. This is even more salient as women over 50 are now the fastest growing segment of the workforce in the UK.
Despite other aspects surrounding women’s reproductive health becoming more openly discussed in recent years, the menopause has remained a largely ignored issue, especially on workplace agendas. As some women have reported permanently leaving work due to their symptoms, it is clear that workplaces are losing capable and experienced female employees because they have not been supported during the menopause. The policy will hopefully ensure that women can make the most out of their working life, unimpeded by work environments which do not facilitate the menopausal transition.
Menopause policies do, however, need to be wary that they are not framed as a response to low productivity levels. An emphasis on productivity could potentially compound stereotypes around woman being incompetent during the menopause which plays into the gendered ageism which is still very much prevalent in today’s British workforce. The menopause should not be ‘managed’ as if it is a problem and women should not be made to feel different for their arrangements at work.
Undoubtedly, this is a positive piece of news as it challenges embedded cultural attitudes towards secrecy in this area, especially in male-dominated fields of work. Stimulating a more open conversation around menopause will hopefully ensure women do not feel embarrassed or compromised in anyway when disclosing their symptoms at work.