The menopause can have an impact on your wellbeing, the BMA have a range of services available to all doctors and medical students.
If you are a BMA member who has a question on menopause or need support from the BMA you can contract one of our advisors.
The definition of menopause and perimenopause
The menopause is when a person stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, lasting an average of four years. The perimenopause is a period of hormonal change leading up to the menopause. This is the time when many women start to experience symptoms.
The symptoms of menopause
The symptoms of the menopause are wide-ranging and fluctuate and vary throughout the process, they can impact a person’s physical and mental health. The NHS website shares a list of the most common symptoms.
Some symptoms include:
- Hot flushes and night sweats
- Mood changes, such as low mood or anxiety
- Joint stiffness, aches and pains
- Difficulty sleeping
Whilst there are common symptoms and shared experiences of menopause, each person’s experience is unique. Age, gender identity, race, religion and belief of disability are some of the factors that can impact how a person experiences menopause.
Who experiences menopause
The menopause most commonly impacts women between the ages 45 and 55 years of age. On average, 1 in 100 women experience early menopause, this is classified as anyone who start the menopause before the age of 40.
The menopause and menopausal symptoms can occur for people who are trans, intersex and those who do not identify as women, for example, non-binary people.
Menopause at work
If comfortable, speak with your line manager about your experiences and what changes could be made to make your symptoms more manageable. If you are uncomfortable speaking with your manager, consider raising it with another colleague or you can contact the BMA for support.
Ask for a risk assessment which is menopause sensitive. Employers have a legal duty to make a suitable assessment of the workplace risks to the health and safety of their employees.
If occupational health services are available at your place of work, you can families yourself with how to gain access to these services.
If available, review your organisation’s menopause policy. It may also be useful depending on your symptoms to review other workplace policies such a flexible working and health and wellbeing.
If your employer does not have a menopause policy in place, you can review other policies to see the type of adjustments and changes people have received to support them with the menopause.
There are laws in place that your employers should be aware of that protect you from being treated less favourably by your employer because of the menopause. These are:
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which says an employer must, where reasonably practical, ensure everyone’s health, safety and welfare at work
- Equality Act 2010, which protects against discrimination. Menopause is not a protected characteristic, but unfavourable treatment could be viewed as discrimination related to age, sex, disability or gender reassignment.
ACAS has guidance on menopause and the law.
How to be a supportive manager
Familiarise yourself with your organisation’s menopause policy, if this does not currently exist, look at best practice and policies from other organisations. Here is the BMA model menopause policy.
Pro-actively normalise the topic of menopause with your team, encouraging people to raise any concerns with you or be able to refer them to other staff members if they do not feel comfortable.
Don’t make assumptions, even if you are going through or have been through the menopause, everyone will have a different experience.
Offer reassurance to your colleagues that any changes they will not face unfavourable treatment if they need to make adjustments or need additional support during this period.
How to be a supportive employer
Implement a menopause policy, developed in consultation with unions and staff most impacted by menopause. Review sickness and flexible working policies to ensure they factor in menopause.
Review the workplace environment to see if it is inclusive of employees experiencing the menopause. This includes ensuring employees have access to cool drinking water, toilet facilities and well- ventilated rooms.
Improve access to flexible working to those who need to adjust working hours to make their symptoms more manageable. When going through the menopause reducing working hours and stopping night shifts can make a substantial difference to manage menopausal symptoms.
Provide occupational health services to employees and having menopause sensitive risk assessments. The outcomes of assessments should be implemented.
Educate and train staff on the impact of menopause and create environments for staff where they can speak openly about their experiences.
Do not tolerate sexist and ageist behaviours that some women experiencing the menopause are subject to.
What the BMA is doing
The BMA recognises that women make up nearly half or doctors and 77 per cent of the NHS workforce. If employers want to retain this talented and growing part of the workforce, they must break the taboo around menopause and have support structures in place that allow those who experience the menopause to continue to work and progress during this period of their working lives.
The BMA submitted evidence to the government’s Menopause in the Workplace Inquiry.
A model menopause policy for your workplace.
A model menopause policy for higher education.
BMA menopause report and survey discussion.
Menopause matters: supporting health and productivity webinar.
Menopause matters: supporting health and productivity reading list.
Menopause in the workplace webinar.
- Change of life? Tackling the menopause culture to retain senior doctors by Helen Fidler
- Menopause needs more than a mention by Helena McKeown