Did you know that women of menopausal age are the fastest growing work demographic in the UK? And that 1 in 4 working in the financial services industry will consider leaving their job due to a lack of employer support?
In the latest of our D&I insights series, Bruin recently partnered with Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace to explore how the financial services sector can be menopause friendly.
Attendees from across financial services joined us to learn more about the latest research on retaining and attracting employees, by creating a culture where menopause is regarded as business as usual. Also joining us was Theresa Winters, Senior Manager, Employee Experience who shared the journey Santander UK are going through to become an accredited Menopause Friendly Organisation.
What is the menopause?
Sharon Vibert is Director at Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace, an organisation supporting employers to become menopause friendly through line manager and colleague training, policy and communications expertise. Sharon opened the event with an overview of the menopause, what the terminology means, and how the menopause can affect someone in the workplace.
Sharon shared that menopause is the point at which a women’s periods stop, but symptoms usually start in the months or years before, during perimenopause. Menopause itself can happen at any age and the average age of reaching menopause in the UK is 51. It normally occurs between the ages of 45-55, but can also occur earlier either naturally or due to certain surgeries or medical conditions. Menopause between 41 and 45 is classed as early menopause, which will affect 5 in 100 women and 110,000 women between the ages of 12 to 40 will experience ovarian insufficiency, or premature menopause.
Perimenopause symptoms may last between 4 to 8 years and can fluctuate from night sweats, hot flushes, sleep disturbances, dry skin and aching joints, to palpitations, migraines, low mood, anxiety and difficulty concentrating.
However, Sharon stressed that symptoms don’t have to be bad to ask for support and the importance that those affected ask for help.
Interview with Theresa Winters (TW), by Kirstin Duffy (KD), COO at Bruin
(KD): Around 1 in 10, or 128,000, of all women working in the U.K. financial services industry is going through menopause, but it’s often considered to be a women’s issue, rather than a business issue. Can you tell me a bit about why you decided to take Santander on this journey and the initiatives you have implements?
(TW) Our menopause journey started with a conversation. In June 2019 I noticed a post on LinkedIn about how the average age to reach menopause in the UK is 51. This resonated, as I was 51 at the time and had absolutely no idea if I was in menopause. I shared the post, saying our organisation was very focused and supportive of colleagues’ wellbeing and I hoped if the time came and I needed support, I’d be given it. My director replied, suggesting we chat when I got back.
We looked at the data on our employees and found that there were potentially 3,000 women who could be affected, so my team and I began to look at what we could do to start the conversation about menopause. We did have guidelines in place but they were somewhat hidden on our intranet, so we set about a number of activities to better understand what communication and support was required. Our programme of activity grew from this and we continue to build on what we have in place to ensure our colleagues are supported when they need it.
(KD) In January, the Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) heard evidence from employment lawyers as part of its inquiry into menopause and the workplace; in particular, whether the menopause should be made a legally protected characteristic. But there remain a lack of clarity around the law and menopause is too often regarded as a ‘taboo’ subject. How did you approach getting buy-in from the business? What steps did you take to help managers get engaged, normalise conversations and be able to support colleagues?
(TW): We trained a team of 25 advocates and provided training specifically for Managers with guidance on their role in supporting colleagues. I liken this to mental health in that whilst these individuals aren’t psychologists, they can sign post support and we can give them the tools to run good, empathetic conversations.
We also held menopause awareness sessions for colleagues and managers, with a clear message that menopause is a topic that impact any person of any gender or age. Also, half our managers are male. This awareness phase was crucial so that we created the right environment, in which people could talk openly about their experiences of menopause and seek help if they needed to.
(KD) Standard Chartered and the Financial Skills Commission published a report recently that showed that a lack of understanding and support about the menopause is impacting female progression and at times leading women to opt out of the workforce altogether. How significant a role has recruitment and retention played in rolling out your policy?
(TW) On Recruitment/Retention, I think this has become increasingly important, but I see it as a similar area of focus to building psychological safety – that through having a multifaced approach to support and conversation, you start to inevitably impact retention.
For attraction, it’s one of the reasons I like us to be vocal externally about the importance of support and what we are doing but we still have more to do here in terms of our job adverts but we are starting to include Menopause support as one of our employee benefits on our careers website.
Looking at the data in terms of absence, presenteeism, engagement and normalising conversations has been key – one of the things we implemented was adding menopause added as a absence reason – and since beginning this journey we’ve seen a drop in employee attrition at the 35 – 55 age group.
(KD) Over the last few years, both organisations and the UK’s financial regulators have put a greater impact on diversity and inclusion. This has gone hand in hand with greater emphasis on employee wellbeing and mental health during the pandemic. How have these two influences impacted the roll out of your strategy? Did it change any of the business decisions around your initiatives?
(TW) I’m very proud of our employee wellbeing programme and we provided a lot of support pre-Covid, raising awareness, ensuring psychological safety – where everyone feels it is safe to speak, as well as Line Manager training, and providing practical support and guidance.
While Covid has presented challenges, it has been important for us to continue the conversation on menopause as part of our wider wellbeing strategy to support our people and to help to normalise the discussion around it.
Very quickly after lockdown took effect, we moved to making more use of video meetings, but I also felt it was important to take specific actions for those going through menopause. We provided some additional guidance and ideas for colleagues on how to manage their menopause journey during the crisis. One of the most successful initiatives was a private online chat group that colleagues could join as a safe space to engage remotely with others going through menopause.
We are also exploring different options to connect our colleagues further including sharing colleague stories of their experience, holding webinars and online lunch and learn sessions, and developing colleagues as champions to provide additional support.
(KD) What has been the biggest impact on the business since? Can you share some success stories?
(TW) It’s difficult to measure progress during Covid and attribute this entirely to our menopause programme, but I’m very proud of our wellbeing feedback which has increased 15% in the past year within the 30 – 55 age range. ‘Life changing’ isn’t something you hear often as an employer and our EVP / NPS scores have been off the charts!
(KD) What would be your advice be to an organisation at the start of their journey?
(TW) I would encourage them to start by opening up a conversation around menopause in the workplace. Allocating menopause champions internally is a fantastic way to break down the stigma around the topic, and lead by example. And listen to other organisations who have menopause support in place; we need to work together in order to make menopause support the norm, rather than something that sets businesses apart.
How to implement a long-term menopause strategy and embed menopause into the culture of an organisation
Sharon shared that 80% of employers have done nothing. Tackling this head on, Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace provides CPD accredited menopause training, which makes it easy for organisations to develop the right policies, practices and cultural change for their business. Their team of experts can help to introduce the right support in organisations, equipping them with the facts about menopause and the latest clinical thinking.
For colleagues, this means they’re receiving accredited training and learning to boost their professional lives which will help in their personal lives, too. For organisations, it means recognition and reputation as a business which supports colleagues through effective and comprehensive training.
For those beginning their journey, Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace has created a checklist that highlights the best practice which is available here: Menopause in the Workplace Checklist
More information on Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace CPD accredited menopause
training is available here: Menopause in the Workplace Training
Please contact Tina@henpicked.net for any queries related to Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace and further information on their services and training programme.