In 2023 the media increased its focus on the menopause, with the number of times menopause was mentioned in UK newspapers growing by 15% from 2022. An HRT shortage in the UK received widespread national criticism and coverage in British newspapers in 2022. A year later, in 2023, the first woman to sue her former employer successfully for ‘menopause discrimination’ also received national coverage.
Increased focus on the menopause and menopause policy is an exciting step forward. It brings with it increased awareness, importantly within businesses where it is so desperately needed.
A 2023 study published by Occupational Medicine found that menopause symptoms impact the work performance of 65% of women. At the same time, Unite trade union found that 83% of women receive no support at work when they are experiencing menopause symptoms.
And yet, we all agree that it is imperative for companies to guarantee that women, who play a crucial role in our global economy, are provided with support and respect at all stages of their career. As menopause continues to emerge as a national issue, employers who prioritise a thoughtful and well-executed communications plan through which to deliver menopause policy in the workplace could find themselves ahead of the curve, ensuring protection of the health and wellbeing of their staff and ultimately business interests.
What changes can we expect to see?
At the Women’s Health Summit in January Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Victoria Atkins MP announced that one of her 2024 priorities was women’s health, in particular menstrual problems and menopause.
There are a number of policies introduced by the Government in 2023 which we will begin to see the results of in 2024. Last year, the Government began to provide a framework for how companies can support female employees through the menopause. Women’s health advocates celebrated a positive step forward for workplace support when, in March, Helen Tomlinson was appointed England’s first ever Menopause Employment Champion. Tasked with encouraging employers to establish menopause policies, the role aims to foster supportive environments for women in the workplace navigating menopause.
2023 was also the first year of England’s Women’s Health Strategy, which made menopause a priority area. As part of a wider scheme of government initiatives to bolster support for women experiencing menopause symptoms. HRT prescription prepayment certificates were introduced and reduced prescription costs to £19.30 a year. The 2024 Women’s Health Strategy aims to expand women’s health hubs, establishing one in every local area this year. This will improve access to services for menstrual problems, pelvic pain, and menopause care.
With the next general election likely taking place in the second half of 2024, it is important to consider the implications of a potential change in government. Labour’s Party Chair and Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, Annelise Dodds MP, announced in February that Labour would require menopause action plans to be published by large employers, and that these action plans would be tailored to different workplaces. Labour Deputy leader Angela Rayner MP stated the policy is a “simple and effective way” to “improve productivity, keep more people in work and ultimately grow our economy for all”. Labour has also pledged to produce menopause workplace guidance aimed at small businesses, which will outline how smaller employers can support employees going through the menopause.
Looking to the future
Both the Government and Opposition have detailed ways in which they would improve the workplace for menopausal people and have indicated the need for menopause to become a priority area. With this in mind and given that during 2022 and 2023 discussion of menopause as a serious topic in the media increased, it is certain that this will continue into 2024 and beyond.to.
With such a focus, 2024 could be a transformative year for menopausal people. If business is better equipped to support employees, this will foster confidence and efficiency whilst at the same time prioritise well-being. It is essential for business to promote an age and gender-diverse workforce. Companies do not want to be caught without a robust policy and clear communications strategy through which they can display real support for menopausal employees.