Here at the Co-op we want to support our colleagues’ wellbeing at every stage in life. We know that women make up nearly half the UK workforce - and 45% of those people working are over the age of 50 – so many of today’s female workers will be working through the perimenopause and menopause and managing the symptoms at work.

We know that many people feel uncomfortable talking about the perimenopause and menopause – which means that some women suffer in silence while experiencing a wide range of symptoms that can affect their physical as well as mental health. So it’s time to stop viewing this as just a women’s issue, rather as a workplace issue that we all have a role in supporting.

The purposes of this Policy are to encourage our colleagues to talk more about the perimenopause and menopause – for women experiencing symptoms to feel you can ask for the help you need, for managers to have the knowledge and confidence to know what to do if you need to support a colleague through this time, and to give all colleagues information of where you can go for further help.

While this Policy uses the term ‘women’ to talk about people who may experience perimenopause and menopause transition, we know that it can impact trans or non-binary colleagues who don’t identify as women in the same manner. We will support all colleagues experiencing perimenopause and menopause transition, so encourage colleagues to ask for help if they need it.

Crucial bits

Our commitments

We’re committed to taking all reasonable steps to make sure that we:

  • Listen to you if you tell us about your perimenopause or menopause symptoms
  • Keep information about your health confidential
  • Support you if you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms, making reasonable adjustments where needed
  • Treating you with respect, not making judgements or assumptions about you based on your age or because you’ve told us that you’re in menopause transition
  • Treat any issues of bullying and harassment in relation to health issues associated with the menopause seriously – see our Bullying and Harassment / Respect Policy for more information

Perimenopause and Menopause as health conditions

The perimenopause is the period when hormone levels start to change, you may start to notice new physical and/or mental health symptoms but are still experiencing periods. The perimenopause can last for several years and typically affects people between the ages of 45 and 55 although the age can vary from person to person.

A woman is described as in menopause when they have not had a period for one full calendar year or more. Menopause occurs when a person’s ovaries no longer produce eggs and as a result the levels of three hormones – namely oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone – fall.

The average age for a woman to undergo menopause transition is 51 – but 1 in 100 women will experience it before the age of 40. That could be as a result of surgery, illness or treatment for other conditions, such as chemotherapy – or it could be for no reason at all. ‘Perimenopause’ can start as early as in your twenties or as late as your forties. So we won’t make any assumptions about what you may or may not be experiencing based on your age.

Supporting women experiencing symptoms of perimenopause or menopause transition means understanding that not everyone experiences menopause in the same way. Like any other health condition, colleagues will have different symptoms and need different support at different times. So this Policy isn’t about creating a one-size fits all approach. It’s about highlighting all of the different ways that we can support you – so you can decide what works best for you.

Confidentiality

If you tell your manager about your menopause transition, they’ll keep this confidential and won’t share this information unless you say it’s okay – except if we’ve got serious concerns for your safety or that of others.

Symptoms

Most people might know about the symptom of hot flushes during menopause transition, but there are a number of physical and mental health symptoms we know could affect you at work, that we might need to put adjustments in place for:

  • psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, memory loss, panic attacks, loss of confidence and reduced concentration
  • hot flushes
  • sleep disturbances (including night sweats) that can make you feel tired and irritable
  • extreme PMS or heavy bleeding that might cause pain or embarrassment at work
  • muscle and joint stiffness, aches and pains
  • bladder problems including recurrent urinary tract infections and cystitis
  • headaches
  • skin changes – dryness, itchiness

We know that you might experience some, none, or all of one of these symptoms. If you do experience symptoms to the extent that they are affecting you at work, please talk to your manager, or another manager you feel comfortable with, about any changes we can make to help you. You could also contact our women’s and allies ASPIRE for support at aspire@coop.co.uk

Making reasonable adjustments

There might be reasonable adjustments we can make at work to help you manage your menopausal symptoms. These are likely to be temporary changes while you go through menopause transition.

Your manager may do a risk assessment to understand more about how your menopausal symptoms might affect you at work and the adjustment you need.

You can also use a Wellbeing Action Plan to identify how your menopausal symptoms are impacting you at work, and use this to discuss any changes you might need with your manager.

The reasonable adjustments we can make will depend on your circumstances, but the types of changes that might help could be:

  • changing your start time if you’re experiencing disturbed sleep
  • providing more breaks
  • working from home
  • making sure you’ve got access to cold water while you’re working
  • making sure you’ve got easy access to toilet facilities
  • making sure the temperature is comfortable, providing a fan or access to fresh air
  • adjusting your uniform requirements, or providing more items of uniform
  • giving you somewhere to store extra clothes or change clothes during the day
  • giving you time off to attend medical appointments – see Co-op Dental and Medical Appointments Policy Guide to Reasonable Adjustments.

There’s more information in the Guide to Reasonable Adjustments.

If you think you might need a change to your working pattern to help you to manage your menopausal transition, talk to your manager about this when you’re creating your Wellbeing Action Plan. Just so it’s clear we’ll deal with this as a possible reasonable adjustment, so you don’t need to make an application under the flexible working process.

Your manager might suggest that you speak to our independent Employee Assistance Programme, to get some help and advice. They may encourage you to go to your GP for support, if you haven’t already. They might also ask you if you’re happy to be referred to occupational health. This is so we can get more information about how your menopause symptoms are likely to affect you at work, and what adjustments we can make to help.

Things to think about

Wellbeing Action Plan

Wellbeing Action Plans can be used to help you identify what helps you to manage your menopausal symptoms at work, what causes you to become unwell and the support you’d like to receive to boost your wellbeing.

By creating a Wellbeing Action Plan, you can identify works and doesn’t work for you in managing your menopause transition, what support you might need from your manager and what you can do to support your own health and wellbeing.

There’s a template you can use to create your Wellbeing Action Plan. You can either do this on your own and then share it with your manager, or discuss it with them to put it together. Either way, once you’ve shared this with your manager they’ll keep it confidential and won’t share it with anyone else.

It’s good to meet with your manager regularly to discuss your Wellbeing Action Plan and how you feel things are going. You can use your usual one-to-one, or just ask them if you want a catch-up.

We ran a Manager Menopause Training session with The Merry Menopause in October 2021, where we discussed the main symptoms of the menopause, how to best support colleagues who are experiencing these symptoms, and how to have sensitive conversations with your teams. You can watch a recording of this training here.

If you need further support

Remember we have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) who can provide colleagues with support. You can contact the EAP on 0800 069 8854. It’s independent and totally confidential. And there’s no charge for Co-op colleagues.

If you have access to Yammer there is an ASPIRE run group you may find helpful you can access it here.

We’ve produced a guide and short guide for managers supporting colleagues experiencing the menopause, available below. Managers can also contact ER Services for advice.

Other sources of support

There are lots of charities and other support groups who offer information and support about menopause. We can’t list them all here, but here are a few that you might find helpful: