“Let’s say ‘menopause’ three times a day”

Posted by ap507 at Aug 06, 2018 02:13 PM |
Campaign to ‘normalise’ the menopause gathers momentum at Leicester - the UK’s first University to have a menopause policy

Issued by University of Leicester on 6 August 2018

  • Government report by University of Leicester team into menopause in the workplace marks its one year anniversary
  • University of Leicester policy demystifies menopause by encouraging staff to talk about it candidly and informally
  • Campaign also engages men to talk about menopause
  • Women empowered at Leicester to share their experiences living with the menopause
  • Academic team run monthly menopause cafes on campus
  • Tips on working with ‘menopause brain fog’

“We are taking steps to remove the taboo at Leicester and this is marked by the more open conversations around menopause”

-       Dr Andrea Davies, School of Business, University of Leicester

A dramatic culture change is occurring at the University of Leicester – and it’s driven by pioneering research turned into a workplace menopause policy.

The research team has drawn people around the campus and beyond –including the University leadership team – to talk about the menopause.

The results have been surprising- it has helped men as well as women talk confidently about menopause.  The aim of the Leicester initiative is to get women and men to ‘normalise’ the conversations around the menopause- and make Leicester a model for how menopause in the workplace is destigmatised.

Leicester is the first University in the UK to have a menopause policy. The University is now working on a portfolio of projects in various workplaces - implementing and engaging the report recommendations with organisations and employers including the NHS, TUC Education, ACAS,  West Midlands Police, menopauseintheworkplace.co.uk, talkingmenopause.com and menopausedoctor.co.uk.

The catalyst for change has been a Government-commissioned report authored by a team from the University of Leicester School of Business. July marks the one year anniversary of the report – and at the University of Leicester they have witnessed real change.

Dr Andrea Davies, one of the academic leaders driving the policy at Leicester, said: “We set out that menopause should be not a women's only issue - men and women attend the menopause roadshows and at our monthly Menopause Cafes numbers are growing each meeting, and it has been great to also see some male colleagues come too. This shows that we are actioning menopause to be inclusive - for everyone and every age group to know about. This is our approach to breaking down the taboo.

“What we have seen is that the facts about menopause are not well known, and to share information and raise awareness is the first key step to building confident conversations around menopause for everyone.  We’ve also found that men are keen to know more to support their own family and female colleagues.”

The policy was implemented in November 2017, following the publication of the government-commissioned report ‘‘The effects of menopause transition on women’s economic participation in the UK” by Professor Jo Brewis, Dr. Vanessa Beck, Dr. Andrea Davies and Dr. Jesse Matheson.

Drawing on the expertise of Deborah Garlick of T4W Henpicked (menopauseintheworkplace.co.uk) to navigate our choice for a policy and not guidance, the four aims of the policy are:

  • Making all colleagues – not just mid-life women – aware of the facts about menopause. This means caring about it as a significant workplace issue and being confident to act accordingly, either for other colleagues or on their own behalf.
  • Removing any taboo around menopause in the workplace so everyone could talk about it openly without embarrassment.
  • Women experiencing symptoms to feel able to discuss this and ask for support and reasonable adjustments so they continue to be successful in their roles and enjoy the right life-work balance.
  • University leaders and line managers to be able to have supportive conversations on the same basis and to be clear on the University’s policy and practices, supported by HR, Health and Wellbeing and the Occupational Health teams.

Dr Andrea Davies said: “We decided early on that we needed to compile a formal policy because this would signal that menopause at work was a priority. Embedded in the policy is guidance for line managers and for women to start confident conversations and there are examples of workplace adjustments. Alongside this is a menopause factsheet as well as a video. What is important is the cafeteria approach adopted. Menopause transition is different for all women and a one size fits all approach does not match what we know about menopause.”

Since the policy’s introduction eight months ago, a cross-functional team have been working on a number of projects to help women feel at ease with their menopausal symptoms in the workplace- including running menopause roadshows alongside monthly menopause cafés.

These events are intended to be supportive and inclusive spaces, where women can come together to discuss their experiences living and working with the menopause.

Dr Davies said: “Our monthly Menopause Cafes are informal gatherings which we began as part of International Women’s Day celebrations, and we’ve worked closely with Rachel Weiss in Perth who started the Menopause Café idea. We have continued these each month, held in a public space, and so not hidden away. We share conversations over tea and coffee and it has been great to hear experiences of menopause.

“People share tips on how they are managing menopause symptoms at work and at home. A recent share I really liked was to have a menopause book on the work desk. This is a place to write lists and say how her menopause was today. She wrote things herself but also encouraged her work colleagues to do the same and this has really helped with  not to forgetting things that does happen if you experience  intermittent forgetfulness, or what we call out as menopause brain fog. There is no shame but an acknowledgement and a caring way to work with the brain fog.”

Responses from staff who have attended the sessions have included comments such as:

“I personally real enjoyed the Café session I attended, it did make you realise you’re not alone, and something as simple as hot flushes when you know there are other women who like you just get them, and you can share and laugh about that experience. I know within my own team there are two of us going through the menopause, and after the session I went on line and purchased us both USB fans so whenever the hot flush happens we’re prepared."

The menopause policy has been linked to a new policy on maximising attendance, and will also form part of a new online training programme for new managers.

The University of Leicester Coaching Academy have also designed a specialist coaching stream for menopause which is due to launch in the upcoming months.

The latest milestone of the project is that women from the menopause cafes are now developing ideas  of how they would like to raise menopause awareness and education at the University, and there is a real buzz over  how best to mark World Menopause Day on 18th October.

Dr Davies added: “In just eight months there has been a noticeable change at the University of Leicester. The Menopause Café banner stands every day in the main staff dining area as a bright visible marker of the change around menopause at the University.

“Confidence to talk about menopause is growing. Much of the action is happening without using the formal processes of occupational health. We are finding adjustments and solutions through confident and informed conversations between colleagues and line managers.

“We are removing the  taboo – menopause is visible and in the everyday. We are confident the policy will be an unquestioned part of management and operating at the strategic heart of the University.”


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Nicola Junkin on NJJ8@le.ac.uk


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