The departmental environment
It’s important to remember that some people might not talk about their menopause symptoms at work for a wide range of reasons and there is no requirement for them to do so. They may, for example, feel it's a private or personal matter or feel embarrassed to discuss it. They may be unsure what response they would get from their line manager, or be worried that it would not be treated seriously or confidentially. They may also be concerned that admitting that they are struggling would affect their job security or opportunities to progress or seek development opportunities.
Departments should work to ensure they create and maintain an open atmosphere where individuals feel comfortable about disclosing information about any issues that are impacting on them at work. They should ensure that staff understand that they can talk to their line managers or another person such as an HR colleague privately about how the menopause is affecting them at work and what could help. This may be facilitated by ‘normalising’ the issue, for example by referencing menopause and the support that is available in departmental inductions, PDRs, departmental staff websites, communications, wellbeing events, etc. Creating an environment which allows individuals to talk about the issues that are affecting them is the first step to providing support.
The role of the line manager
Line managers should aim to facilitate an open, supportive atmosphere within their team which encourages staff who need support to come forward, whether for menopause-related issues or any other personal issues which are impacting on their work. They should also ensure that menopause is treated in the same way as other types of physical or mental health issue or protected characteristics, and discussed respectfully and sensitively: line managers have a key role to play in ensuring that inappropriate language, often dismissed as ‘banter’, is not tolerated.
In order for line managers to be able to respond positively should any member of their team need support, they need to be effectively supported themselves. It's important for line managers to understand:
- how menopause may affect staff in the workplace
- how particular types of working arrangements or environment may exacerbate symptoms
- what support and guidance the University can offer
- what adjustments, or measures might be available to help people to manage to work at their best
This guidance aims to provide key information and further information is available in the resources tab.
Making sure staff know that they can seek support will encourage early conversations so that any necessary measures can be put in place.
Awareness raising activities at University or departmental level are intended to help everyone to understand how menopause may affect individuals, and to create an open and supportive atmosphere. However, initiating discussion of menopause with an individual should always be left to the individual member of staff, and should not be raised by a line manager, for example as a potential reason for poor performance, or attendance, or because someone has reached a particular age.
Not everyone experiences symptoms and not everyone who does will want to disclose or discuss this. Some staff may prefer, in the first instance, to speak to someone other than the line manager (see ‘Giving staff the option to speak with someone else’, below). However, where an employee does raise the issue with their line manager, the manager should be open to discussion and should ensure that such discussions are confidential and held in private where both the manager and staff member are comfortable and will not be disturbed.
The manager should:
- allow the staff member to decide how much information they wish to disclose
- let the staff member lead the conversation
- not make any assumptions about the person's symptoms or experience
- consider any needs they identify and discuss what measures might be put in place (this is discussed in more detail in ‘Practical Support’, below).
Managers should respect the person's wishes for privacy and not disclose any information to other colleagues without their permission. However, if someone does want information about their menopause symptoms to be shared with colleagues or the HR team, the manager should let them decide what they want and do not want their colleagues to know and how this information will be shared.
It might be helpful to keep a written record of what has been agreed about confidentiality and the sharing of information.
Giving staff the option to talk with someone else
Staff affected by the menopause may want to talk with someone other than their manager.
They could be, for example a:
- member of HR or the HAF
- colleague / different manager
- trade union representative (if the person is a trade union member)
Whilst all of these may be valuable sources of personal support, where workplace adjustments are required some information will need to be shared with a line manager so that any necessary measures can be put in place.