Majority of retail businesses failing to deal with menopause in the workplace, study finds

British retailers will continue to lose skilled workers if they continue to disregard the significance of how menopause symptoms such as joint pain, hot flushes, memory loss, fatigue and anxiety, can dramatically impact performance in the workplace.

The urgent wake-up call from employment law specialists at Irwin Mitchell follows a menopause survey  they commissioned with YouGov.

The study of 83 HR decision makers working across British retail businesses found that only a quarter (24%) employers consider menopausal symptoms during the performance reviews of female staff. This is despite it being widely accepted that the effects of the menopause can be debilitating for a woman’s physical and psychological wellbeing. Symptoms have a huge impact on a women’s confidence in work, lead to periods of absence or even resignations. The survey also found that 61% of organisations in the sector which were surveyed don’t currently have a menopause policy.

According to Irwin Mitchell, not only is this lack of action compounding the current skills shortage by forcing women out of their careers, it will make it more difficult to attract new employees. Lawyers also warn that it could result in businesses facing costly discrimination claims in the future.

Jenny Arrowsmith, an employment law partner at Irwin Mitchell, said: These are disappointing results and when you consider that menopause is an issue which affects the fastest-growing demographic in the UK, namely women aged 50-64, it’s clear businesses must do more.

“It’s about time that menopause is openly discussed as a health and work issue and for employers to demonstrate that they take it seriously. Establishing a menopause policy is a simple and valuable starting point.

“Not only does a menopause policy help to promote positive change within an organisation, it sets a framework for evidencing how the organisation will approach conversations about the menopause, what support affected employees can expect to receive and where they can access additional help. In doing so, it reduces the risk of costly disputes.

“There has been a significant rise in the number of employment tribunals where menopause is mentioned over the last 2 to 3 years and as awareness of this issue grows, we expect to see complaints increase further. Our survey demonstrates that there is a considerable amount of work still to do. This risk will increase if additional legal protection is given to those who have significant menopausal symptoms, which is something the Women and Equalities Committee are considering.

“Organisations that have woken up to the issue and are aware of the challenges that women face when going through the menopause are in a much stronger place to attract and retain colleagues  who are often at the peak of their experience and have many more productive years ahead of them.”

Key statistics from retail businesses surveyed:

o   Three in five (61%) of businesses working in the retail sector do not have a menopause policy.

o   64% of businesses in the retail sector do not train their line managers in relation to menopause.

o   Just over two in five (43%) of all the businesses that say they do not train their staff about the menopause admit to not having thought about it. 21% don’t consider it a priority whilst 13% claim that sensitivities and embarrassment about the issue hold them back.

o   Two thirds of organisations in the retail sector questioned (65%) say they are confident that women in their organisation feel able to talk about the menopause.

o   Only 27% of organisations in the retail sector say they provide information about the menopause to their employees with 28% offering internal support groups.

o   60% of businesses in the retail sector say they do not consider menopause during performance reviews for female staff.