Giving menopausal women special treatment at work makes them ‘disabled’ | UK | News

The NHS has committed to making workplace adjustments for menopausal women, giving them the option to work from home or turn down the heating. Two writers shared their thoughts with the Telegraph on whether the policy is a good idea or not.

Menopausal women working in the NHS will benefit from adaptations including flexible working, transition-friendly uniforms and access to ventilators.

Around 75 per cent of NHS staff are women and research has shown that 10 per cent of women are quitting their jobs and many more are cutting their hours or forgoing promotions because of their menopausal symptoms.

The NHS recently signed the Menopause Workplace Pledge saying “It is very important that the NHS takes action now to retain their extraordinary and dedicated staff”. But does this help or hinder women in the workplace?

Eleanor Mills, editor-in-chief of Noon.org.uk, a platform for middle-aged women, said: “Not only is this a human thing to do, it makes good business sense.”

She wrote in the Telegraph: “Three cheers for Amanda Pritchard, head of the NHS, who this week became the first employer to say menopausal women can work flexibly, or even from home, if they’re feeling awful.

Speaking about her personal experience, she said her menopause “wasn’t too bad.”

“I’ve had some pretty awful night sweats — the kind where you wake up drenched, like you’ve been in the shower — and some joint pain. And I’ve had a little brain fog. At one point I was afraid I had early dementia; when words are your business – I’m a writer, a talker, a presenter – it’s quite disturbing when you’re on live TV or in front of a panel of powerful women, and your mind goes blank.

“I found myself having to lengthen my sentences because the right word eluded me. Or have to stop typing while my brain was looking for the connection. I hated that. Knowing the right word, at the right time, is the key to who I am.”

But she thinks she got off lightly. She said: “I have not been suicidally depressed, found sex so painful I could scream or woke up every night in a panic of fear like some.

“For the one in four women who will be really hard hit by the change – and research shows that women of color experience worse symptoms that start earlier – an understanding employer is a must.

“We hear a lot about how we want to get more women into leadership, run companies, be in government, etc. – but the average age of a CEO is 56 (and a chairman 61). If we lose masses of good women from organizations in their menopause, we will never achieve gender equality. So giving us some leeway is about fairness.

“It’s all very well to say that menopause isn’t a disease, but it still makes you feel damn uncomfortable. Why should women fight it out and suffer in silence? Why not come to work a little later and stay a little later if we’ve had a night of anxiety and insomnia, or had a really heavy bleed? Why not work from home if commuting would be painful and inconvenient?

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“We Gen X women didn’t stop working while raising our families, we persevered and we’re still going. And if we want to support ourselves well into old age – pensions do not start until we are 67 – we have to keep working.

“The country and the economy need us. So give us a break as we work our way through the change, and we’ll reward you with decades of active service ahead. It’s a win-win.”

But Melanie McDonagh isn’t so sure. The journalist wrote: “It’s remarkable, don’t you think, that a condition that affects half the population over the age of 50 has suddenly been medicalised? Amanda Pritchard’s guidance to NHS workers is just the latest wave of corporate empathy.

“Working from home if you suffer from menopause complaints “silently”? Fantastic! Given that there’s exactly no way to know if someone is experiencing temperature or mood swings or any of the other outward signs of hormone changes, it sounds like an invitation to take it easy. Other employers have done the same – many, it should be noted, in the public sector.”

She called the policy “crazy” and added: “If we’re not careful, older women – the kind of employers who are very keen at the moment because we don’t need maternity leave – will become an employment liability.

‘You might get away with that on the NHS, but just try asking to stay home due to hormonal changes if you work for a struggling small business. Or actually for yourself.”

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She added: “What we seem to forget is that menopause is a normal part of the female condition. It’s just a function of living longer than your reproductive capacity. It happens when the pituitary gland in your brain tells your ovaries to produce eggs, just like they used to, and your ovaries respond with the hormonal equivalent of a rude gesture.

“It’s not anyone’s idea of ​​fun. Like most menopausal women, I get hot flashes, occasional sweats, temperature fluctuations, and weight gain (exacerbated by chocolate consumption). It’s possible that I get mood swings too, though frankly it’s hard to tell a transitional noose from the regular kind.

Some of the original menopause awareness campaigns had to do with access to hormone replacement therapy, and admittedly every woman should have access to HRT if she needs it. (By the way, may I point out that HRT isn’t foolproof? I take it every day and I still get temperature swings.)

“But asking for time off, special uniforms, fans at the counter and the rest is just embarrassing. It is to invalidate adult women, too weak to go about the business of life, hormones and work unassisted.”

Giving menopausal women special treatment at work makes them ‘disabled’ | UK | News

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