Government urged to improve menopause employment care to keep women in the workplace

A lack of support is pushing women experiencing menopause symptoms out of work, business leaders and academics have warned MPs.

Representatives from public and private organisations, with community groups, met politicians at the University of Southampton to call for greater action to improve awareness of the condition’s debilitating effects, which can cause women to exit the workforce at the peak of their careers.

Chairing the roundtable event was Mims Davies MP, Minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression, and Romsey and Southampton North’s Caroline Nokes MP, who chairs the Common’s Women and Equalities Select Committee.

The University of Southampton roundtable highlighted the innovative approaches taking by regional employers to support women in the workplace. Discussions included a recent University study which found more than half of women aged 50 suffer at least one severe menopause symptom.

Professor Jane Falkingham, who led the University of Southampton study, said: "Women at the peak of their careers are of incredible value to their employers. Our research found those experiencing acute issues had a significantly higher chance of employment exit or reducing their hours by age 55.

"The report was the first nationally to examine the impact of women experiencing menopausal symptoms on their employment - and showed the condition is a real obstacle facing thousands of middle-aged women in the UK yet remains largely unknown."

A recent House of Comms report, citing Prof Falkingham’s study, found nearly three quarters of women report a "loss of confidence" due to menopause symptoms, and two-thirds admitted to increased stress. However, just one in four women sought any workplace adjustments, with worries about their employer’s reaction.

Around 20 business leaders, council authority and charity bosses joined private sector and charity organisations at the roundtable hosted by the University. It was as part its commitment to its Civic University Agreement which aims to drive economic growth and tackle social challenges.

Mims Davies MP said: "The passion of everyone in this room has encouraged me to take these issues further. One in four women consider leaving their jobs due to the menopause. Being able to talk about it and support it is really vital."

With around 4.5 million women aged 50-64 currently in work, the roundtable discussed enhanced flexibility from companies and criticised the requirement for employees to use disability legislation to hold firms to account for not making reasonable adjustments.

Caroline Nokes MP, Member of Parliament for Romsey and Southampton North, said the menopause took a year of out her life.

She added: "It turned me into an evangelist for trying to find routes to encourage employers and organisations to speak up for those who get massively overlooked. Losing talented women at the top of their career is expensive to replace."

Read the University of Southampton study which highlighted how women experiencing menopause are affected in employment at www.sciencedirect.c­om/science­/article/p­ii/S037851­2220303868 .