Women in Wales forced to miss work due to menopause

Women in Wales are being forced to take time off from work due to debilitating menopause symptoms, new research by a Welsh healthcare company has revealed.

Around a fifth of working women in Wales in the core ‘menopause age’ – aged between 50 and 64 – report that they are reluctantly having to take time out of their working week to ease unbearable menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, memory loss, joint aches, insomnia and anxiety. To compensate for this loss, one in five are choosing to work extra hours to make up for the time lost – equating to millions of women giving up their own time for something that is out of their control.

Findings from the report also reveal that the effects of the menopause are so significant that 20% of women seriously consider giving up work as a result, with over 49,224 working women in Wales in the core menopause age admitting that they have left or considered leaving their jobs because they find dealing with symptoms in the workplace too difficult.

The research was commissioned by Health & Her – an online platform set up by Cardiff-based entrepreneur Kate Bache – aimed at supporting women through the menopause. Health & Her offers free advice from a range of experts including gynaecologists, GPs, psychologists, career coaches and make-up artists, as well as a menopause symptom tool and tracker which recommends products and treatments specific to an individual’s symptoms.

Surveying women over the age of 50 across the country, the research looked specifically at the behaviours of women aged between 50 and 64 – the core menopause age – and highlighted a lack of support from employers for women going through the menopause.

In total, there are over thirty recognised symptoms of the menopause, with women experiencing an average of eight of these at varying degrees and no two experiences being the same.  Almost a quarter of Welsh women aged between 50 and 64 find the symptoms of the menopause so debilitating that they consider reducing their working hours or changing their working pattern completely. Despite this, just 1% of those surveyed feel they could approach their employers.

Kate Bache, co-founder of Health & Her®, says: “Our research found that just a fraction of women who experience difficulties during menopause will speak to their employer about their symptoms. The truth is this lack of discussion and transparency about the menopause is having, and will continue to have, a serious impact on women, as well as the economy, with a huge risk that a pool of expertise, talent and skill could be needlessly lost.

“It is so important that we all work towards creating a better understanding of female health, including managing the menopause at work. Women need a supportive environment that recognises that their careers, family lives and happiness are all affected by their health. This is why we want to banish the stigma and help women to stop putting their life on pause.”

Outside of work, the menopause also has far-reaching effects on other areas of a woman’s life. Mental health, mood, relationships and social lives can all be affected. Over half (52%) of women in Wales report that the menopause has altered their mood, while a fifth say their mental health has been affected.

A further 35% admit their libido and sex life has been impacted, with a quarter stating that their relationships with their partners has changed as a result of the menopause – no doubt one of the driving forces behind the divorce rate among over-50s increasing for the first time in 10 years, with 65% of divorces initiated by women.

Lesley Richards, Head of CIPD Wales, who earlier this year launched a guide for employers on managing the menopause at work, said: “Welsh employers are guilty of failing to provide enough support to workers going through the menopause, which is largely down to a lack of awareness about just how disruptive, intense and severe menopausal symptoms can be. The menopause can have huge implications for women’s physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as their performance and productivity in work, which can lead to a reluctance to disclose symptoms for fear of the repercussions.

“As long as the menopause remais a taboo subject in the workplace, women will continue to feel ashamed, embarrassed and unable to discuss their situations with management, resulting in them feeling unsupported and suffering in silence.

“Employers in Wales need to open a constructive dialogue with women experiencing negative menopause symptoms in order to develop supportive workplace policies and solutions that help them. By doing so, they will not only help to tackle the discomfort felt by menopausal women but will also minimise the productivity loss that accompanies it.”

Kate added: “When it comes to the menopause, there’s no one cap fits all solution. For lots of women, it’s about seeking the right help. Visiting your GP is critical, as is looking at physical, psychological and social solutions, which all play a part.

“This is what inspired me to set up Health & Her to provide a single-stop resource for women looking to obtain advice and treatment that moves away from a ‘catch all’ approach, instead offering individualised solutions tailored to every woman.”

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