Menopause isn’t a dirty word. It’s a fact of life. It's a transition.
The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as oestrogen levels decline. But around 1 in 100 women and other people who have a menstrual cycle will experience the menopause before reaching the age of 40. The symptoms and impact of these in the workplace may vary from person to person, but menopause is a key workplace issue.
On this page you'll find more information about menopause, the symptoms, and the policies and support in place for those affected by the menopause.
Why menopause matters
All women and other people who have a menstrual cycle will experience menopause and symptoms can impact home life and work life, so it's important that we have an open and honest conversation about the menopause and the support that's available. Here's some other reasons why it's important for us to talk:
Right now, there are still too many who suffer in silence or are left frustrated and let down by medical professionals that either don't recognise menopausal symptoms when presented or refuse to prescribe the most appropriate treatments. Too many are told that being menopausal is just a natural phase of life - and while that's true, that doesn't mean we can't treat what can be the debilitating effects on the individual.
We want to break the stigma, and to ensure that everyone know what options are out there to support them through the transitions of menopause.
There are many symptoms of the menopause, these are the most common:
The menopause can also increase your risk of developing certain other problems, such as weak bones (osteoporosis).
Stages of menopause
In simple terms, menopause is the end of the monthly periods as the body stops producing eggs and levels of the hormone estrogen drop.
Leading up to menopause is the perimenopause. During the perimenopause, hormone levels start to fluctuate but monthly periods continue, but may be disrupted. Around 75% will experience some symptoms during this time and for some the effects can be debilitating for them and those around them. Many start to experience perimenopausal symptoms in their late thirties and early forties although they may not recognise them at the time.
Post menopause is everything after twelve months and one day without a period. Some will continue to feel the effects of menopause during this period and can continue for many years.
A small percentage will experience menopause at an early age - what is referred to as premature menopause. It's important to understand that there is no minimum age for the menopause and those in their thirties, twenties and even their teens may be affected.
Medical intervention may result in a woman experiencing the menopause, such as hysterectomy surgery. This is known as medical menopause. Some forms of chemotherapy and radiotherapy may also have the same effect on the body.
Experiencing menopause early in life, whether occurring through medical intervention or naturally, may have far reaching mental and emotional impacts, and support and understanding is important.
Treatments for menopause
It can be a scary time, especially when you don't know what to expect and what support is out there. The good news is that there are effective and safe treatments to alleviate the symptoms of menopause and you can access them easily through your GP or other healthcare professionals.
There are some important facts you should be aware of:
You'll find more useful information in the information sheet provided by Menopause Support on the things you and your doctor should know about menopause.
A little about HRT
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most effective treatment for menopause symptoms, but it's been the subject of some scary headlines which may get some people a little nervous. It's important for us to talk about the facts and not rely on myths and tabloid headlines to guide the treatments that we have.
There are some important facts you should be aware of about HRT:
It's also important to know that there isn't a single HRT treatment, there are several types :
Read more about HRT and some answers to frequently asked questions.
Menopause & mental health
Psychological and emotional changes are extremely common during perimenopause and menopause. It's often one of the main reasons that someone is prompted to visit their GP. It's clear to see why these feelings could be mistaken for depression and why a doctor might prescribe antidepressants, but can taking antidepressants help?
Common symptoms include:
Menopause guidelines are clear that antidepressants should not be used as first line treatment for the low mood associated with the perimenopause and menopause. This is because there is no evidence that they actually help psychological symptoms of the menopause.
Despite this clear recommendation, many women and other people who have a menstrual cycle are offered antidepressants when seeking help from medical professional about their menopausal symptoms. In some situations, some medications can be of benefit, but it's important to know how and when antidepressants should be used.
Lisa Earp, a 39-year-old senior bank manager, reflects on her experience of perimenopause and how she had to fight to get the right support.
Carol Knowles, 57-year-old PEC member and menopause advocate, talks about her menopause journey and the advice she'd give to others.
Laura Fisher, menopause advocate, talks about her menopause journey over the last nine years and the importance of normalising conversations.
Happy WMD. This article looks at why we're talking about menopause, our joint work with LBG and how members can access support.
This video looks at some of the common symptoms, how it's impacting people in the workplace and some of the support options available to members.
We've continued our joint work with Lloyds Banking Group to remove the stigma from the word menopause and to improve awareness and support.
Research has shown that 70% of women and other people who have a menstrual cycle feel uncomfortable talking about menopause at work. It's often still a workplace taboo, yet there are estimated to be 4.4 million women over the age of 50 in work. So, let's talk about how to approach menopause conversations at work both as a colleague experience the menopause, and as a line manager of a colleague going through the menopause.
Having a menopause conversation with your manager
Talking about the menopause has been taboo for way too long. We’re working with your employer to break down barriers to normalise conversations that should lead to positive change.
Here are some tips we think will help when you need or want to have your own meaningful conversation with your line manager:
Think about what you want to say, and what you want to happen. Being prepared with a few notes will help you get the best out of the conversation.
Rehearse the conversation if you’re feeling unsure what to say – close friends or partners offer a safe space to practice.
Book a suitable time – don’t spring the conversation on your manager, and don’t make assumptions about their knowledge or comfort with the subject. Book a room if you’re in an office, even if you’re having the chat online. A private space gives you safety from being overheard and avoids embarrassment.
Keep a diary of your symptoms – jot down how they’re affecting you both physically and mentally. Try and mention specific examples wherever possible. This gives you a good basis to explain to your manager how you’re being affected and will help identify the types of support that may be useful.
Be clear and don’t feel embarrassed to open up. Explain what is happening, the situation and how it’s affecting your work. Remember that every woman will go through the menopause at some point, and that there are estimated to be 4.4 million women over the age of 50 in work… what we’re saying is you’re not alone.
Offer a solution – make suggestions on what would help manage your symptoms at work. Take a look at the support that’s available to you as a colleague or use our menopause guidance page to find out about what support is available outside of your employer.
Follow up – give your boss time to digest what you’ve said. They are unlikely to be an expert on the subject and may need to refer to guidance or support themselves. So, suggest a time to have a follow-up meeting to talk about next steps.
Having a menopause conversation as a manager
If you’re a line manager, you can help normalise conversations about menopause too. Research has shown that 70% of women and other people who have a menstrual cycle feel uncomfortable talking about menopause at work. Here are some tips we think will help you to make it easier for colleagues to talk openly about menopause and help identify the support need:
Ask questions – simple, open and non-judgemental questions will help someone open up.
Avoid judgemental or patronising responses – this will cause someone to close up.
Speak calmly and maintain good eye contact.
Avoid interruptions – switch off or mute phones and other distractions.
Give the colleague ample opportunity to explain the situation in their own words.
Be patient – silent pauses don’t need to be filled, let the colleague tell you what they need to in the way they feel comfortable.
Focus on the person, not the problem.
Show empathy and understanding.
Encourage the colleague to talk – if you can see something is wrong, don’t just ignore it.
Listen actively and carefully.
Make a note of any actions agreed and share these with the colleague or ask them to share a note of actions with you.
Read up on menopause and the sources of support that are available.
General support from employers
Most employers have started to wake up to the needs of those experiencing the menopause and have developed specific policies and support. Most of our members are covered by some form of menopause policy, so we'd direct you to take a look at the specific support that's available which will be clearly signposted on your employer's intranet.
These are some of the more general things that employers can do to support.
Making smaller changes
You won't always need a big change to the way you work, and you may only need some changes for short periods of time - yet these can make a huge difference:
This is not an exhaustive list, and the key is to have open conversations to help you identify what will work for you.
Download our 'Let's talk about menopause' leaflet for further tips on how to have menopause conversations at work and for things your employer can do to help support you.
Support in Lloyds Banking Group
We've been working with Lloyds Banking group on improving the support and information that's available to colleagues around this topic. You can find some of the useful support that's available in LBG on this page. Some of these links will only work if you're logged into your LBG account:
Get support from Accord
We’re building a network of menopause advocates across our membership who can offer support and guidance for those going through the menopause, or those seeking advice. It's a useful way to ensure everyone gets the support they need in work, and know what support and treatments are available from medical professionals.
Advocates need to be knowledgeable about menopause and have a good listening ear. To become an advocate, you must have either attended the training session run by Menopause support or watched the recording. We'll provide additional resources so that you have the tools needed to have supportive conversations.
Accord's menopause advocates are available for both members and non-members to talk to.Find a Menopause advocate Become an advocate
Mental health contacts
There are many sources of support available to you:
And remember, if you’re an Accord member and need a chat about support at work, call the helpline on 0118 934 1808.
Find more mental health related articles on our website.
Other sources of support
There are many sources of support - here are some of our favourites:
Used your employers’ private healthcare plan? You may be eligible to claim up to £100 of your excess from us. Check if you’re eligible.
We teamed up with the Bank Workers Charity for a wellbeing webinar to talk about the menopause, and what we can do to break the silence.
Join Accord & Menopause Support for a rep training course to develop your understanding of menopause and how to support our members.