Speaking to Usdaw delegates in the Winter Gardens, Dave McCrossen – Usdaw Deputy General Secretary said:
“The menopause is clearly a key workplace issue, it is a health and safety issue and an equalities issue. The menopause will affect all women at some stage in their lives. People from non-binary, transgender and intersex communities may also experience menopausal symptoms. So this is not a niche or minority issue.
“The number of older women in work is rising all the time, a trend that is set to continue as retirement ages rise and the birth rate falls. Women make up over half of the UK population and there are over three and a half million women of menopausal age in work.
“Given that one-in-three women in the UK are currently going through or have reached the menopause, it is shocking that there is still so much stigma, discrimination and lack of awareness about it. Usdaw believes it is high time employers and others stopped dismissing the menopause as just a 'women's issue', The Menopause needs to be recognised for what it is, a serious workplace health concern that involves physical and emotional changes that most women find both difficult and exhausting.
“A recent Usdaw survey found that 80% of women going through the menopause experience symptoms that impact on their day-to-day work, with one-in-four women experiencing severe symptoms; ranging from hot flushes, lack of sleep, anxiety, poor memory and concentration. All of these can be made worse by the working environment.
“For working women, their symptoms are compounded by the physically and mentally demanding nature of the jobs they do: late night and early morning working; short notice changes to shifts; lack of rest breaks; lone working, and dealing with customers are difficult to manage at the best of times and they can feel overwhelming when experiencing one or more menopausal symptoms.
“Many women may not recognise that it is the menopause causing their symptoms,
but even where they do, most don't feel able to talk about it or ask for help. If colleagues, and more importantly managers, do not know enough about the menopause, or worse still make jokes about it, this makes it very hard for women to talk about symptoms they are experiencing at work.
“It matters because the absence of workplace support is forcing women out of their jobs. Rather than supporting women, through adopting and developing workplace policies, conducting individual risk assessments and offering reasonable adjustments; employers are more likely to steer women through capability and absence procedures, adding to their stress and anxiety and threatening their job security.
“Usdaw has made significant progress in recent years negotiating workplace policies with employers, with whom we have national agreements and we are fully committed to developing a range of workplace campaign materials to better support women and help reps to know what kinds of changes can be made at work that make a real difference. In fact, work on the campaign is already underway and materials will be available for World Menopause Day in October.
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with around 360,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news
and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion