Teaching and the menopause
The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman’s oestrogen levels decline. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51.
The menopause is caused by a change in the balance of the body’s sex hormones, which occurs as you get older. Premature or early menopause can occur at any age, and in many cases there’s no clear cause.
In this article, we look at advice on how to approach the menopause at work, guidance for employers and organisations to contact for additional information.
Can the menopause affect performance in school?
In one survey of more than 1,100 women, undertaken by the menopause clinic Newson Health, 94% said they felt their work had suffered as a result of their symptoms, and 53% said their colleagues had noticed a deterioration in their performance.
Just over half had taken time off sick, and 1 in 10 had missed more than eight weeks of work.
- Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce
- Nearly 8 out of 10 of menopausal women are in work
- 3 out of 4 women experience symptoms, 1 in 4 could experience serious symptoms
- One in three of the workforce will soon be over 50, and retirement ages are now 68
It explains that all women experience menopause differently. Symptoms can be physical, such as hot flushes, headaches, poor sleep and erratic periods, or psychological, such as anxiety, low mood, lack of confidence and poor concentration.
It explains that almost half of women don’t seek medical advice and the majority of women don’t feel comfortable talking about menopause with their line managers.
We’ve published another article which looks at how to raise issues with your line manager effectively.
How should your school support you?
ACAS has produced guidance for employers on supporting their employees through the menopause.
It explains an employer must minimse or where possible remove workplace health and safety risks for workers. This includes:
- ensuring menopausal symptoms are not made worse by the workplace and/or its work practices
- making changes to help a worker manage their symptoms when doing their job
An employer must generally assess health and safety risks for workers. Regarding the perimenopause and menopause, an risk assessment should, for example, include:
- the temperature and ventilation in the workplace
- the materials used in an organisation’s uniform, if there is one, and whether the uniform might make a worker going through the perimenopause or menopause feel too hot or worsen skin irritation
- somewhere suitable for the worker to rest
- whether toilet and washroom facilities are easily available
- whether cold drinking water is easily available
It explains managing absence from work should be handled sympathetically because the menopause is a long-term and fluctuating health change.
Further, the employer and employee should be prepared to make changes to help the worker continue to work, and minimise, reduce or remove any dips in their job performance because of symptoms.
We have published another article which outlines what to expect from capability procedures.
ACAS explains that in an employment tribunal, menopause symptoms have been accepted to be a disability. Consequently, it is advisable, as well as being good practice, for an employer to consider making changes for a worker experiencing perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms.
We have provided a summary of the employment tribunal process here.
Menopause and teaching: additional resources
- If you are struggling with the menopause and your mental health and wellbeing is being negatively impacted, you can contact the Education Support helpline.
- How to manage the menopause as a teacher, TES
- An inclusive approach to menopause, Optimus Education
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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.