Taboo in workplace

April 6th, 2011

A study has found that the menopause is still a ‘taboo’ subject in many workplaces, presenting a major challenge for millions of women struggling with symptoms.

Many of the 900 women questioned said they had not been prepared for the menopause, and nearly half struggled to cope with symptoms. A similar number felt their performance had been affected, and nearly a fifth thought the menopause made managers and colleagues view them as less competent.

The menopause – part of the natural ageing process – occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with 52 the UK average. Of the over-50s workers in the UK, 45% are women, or 3.5m.

Symptoms can last from four to eight years. Women said the symptoms which impacted on their work included tiredness, poor memory, feeling low and decreased confidence.

Professor Amanda Griffiths, of the University’s Institute of Work, Health and Organisations, conducted the research for the British Occupational Health Research Foundation.  She said: “The menopause presents an occupational health issue for some women, and for a significant period of time.

“In many settings, there was very little awareness of the menopause as a potential occupational health issue – it was a ‘taboo’ topic. In such circumstances, women typically suffer in silence. Many of the participants in this research were embarrassed to disclose their problems or feared that their managers would be embarrassed if they raised the subject, particularly if those managers were younger than them or were male. Where women had taken time off work to deal with their symptoms, only half of them disclosed the real reason for absence.”

Four overarching issues emerged from the research as areas for possible improvements at work: greater awareness among managers, increased flexibility of working hours and arrangements, better access to informal and formal sources of support, improvements in temperature and ventilation.

Prof Griffiths added: “Organisations varied greatly in their willingness to be involved in this research. Whilst some immediately became engaged and saw its significance, others did not appear to consider this a topic worthy of serious consideration. Knowledge about the menopause was limited and there was often an apparent reluctance to probe a potentially sensitive area. However, it subsequently became clear when interviewing women that the vast majority were delighted that this hitherto ‘taboo’ matter was being scientifically explored, and that information and guidance might become available for future generations of women.”

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has issued guidance on the menopause and work, informed by Prof Griffiths’ research.

General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “We welcome the research. Despite the increasingly large number of older women in employment, the menopause is rarely seen as a workplace issue. There is no excuse for the silence, embarrassment, confusion and inaction around the menopause – something which all women go through. The health of women in later years depends very much on their health when they are working through the menopause, and this report shows employers and unions can work together to do much more to protect them.”

Visit for a guide for managers.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Other News

Need news? See you on SharePoint

After 14 years of service, Campus News is being retired as the university’s staff news platform.  […]

Roads and car parks closed for refurbishing work

As part of ongoing road improvements at the university, works will be taking place to resurface […]