Menopausal staff in NHS England will be able to make use of flexible working arrangements under new national guidance.
NHSE’s first national guidance on menopause was accompanied by calls from its chief executive Amanda Pritchard to ‘break the stigma’ surrounding menopause in the workplace.
Ms Pritchard, writing in The Telegraph, said: ‘Women approaching or going through menopause should not have to put up with feeling uncomfortable at work or feel any shame in talking about a transition which is simply a part of life.’
She added that menopause was still a ‘taboo subject’, which has left many women suffering in silence or feeling unsupported at work when they try to discuss the topic.
Ms Prichard wrote: ‘Menopause is not a health condition, it’s a stage of life, and I want all women facing this transition in the NHS to have access to the right support to stay in and thrive at work.’
The national guidance aims to provide employers with information on the menopause, and provide information on how menopausal staff can be made comfortable and encouraged to remain in work.
It has been designed so that it is applicable to all workplaces, including in general practice where it can be adopted at the discretion of the management team.
In her article, Ms Prichard referenced workforce issues, saying that for the first time, there are ‘more women aged 60 to 64 in work than not’, even as there are around 130,000 vacancies in the NHS in England.
Flexible working for menopausal staff is offered by the guidance as ‘one of the measures that can help them to cope with symptoms’, with employers ‘encouraged’ to consider this option.
Other recommendations included ensuring the workplace is suitable for menopausal staff, which could involve allowing for temperature control options and good access to areas for staff to take breaks.
The guidance also covered menopause in transgender and non-binary staff, pointing out that both transgender men and women can experience menopausal or menopause-like symptoms. Employers are encouraged to ‘listen to people on an individual basis and allow them to take the lead on their conversations and required adjustments’.
In a statement to Nursing in Practice, Ms Pritchard said: ‘Women between the ages of 45 and 54 alone make up a fifth of all NHS employees, which means up to 260,000 staff could experience the menopause at work, and for many women it can be a difficult transition.
‘I want all those facing that transition in the NHS to have access to the right support to stay in and thrive at work, which is why we are launching new national guidance to help women through the menopause – boosting awareness and supporting teams to put in place practical measures in the workplace.
‘While some local teams are already implementing initiatives to support women experiencing menopausal symptoms – simple steps like flexible working, fans to help with more comfortable temperatures, cooler uniforms and staff training – I want to see this happening right across the board.’
This comes after women’s health experts said practice nurses and GPs should receive standardised menopause training, focusing on the root causes of symptoms and how they overlap with other conditions, in April.