For a lot of us, work is made difficult because of menopause symptoms. This has led to some women having to leave their jobs or reducing their hours to try and cope. Such drastic measures don’t necessarily have to be made. You’re entitled to request what are called reasonable adjustments from your employer.
A reasonable adjustment is an adjustment or adaptation to your job or working environment that makes it easier for you to do your job when you have any health issues or a disability. For menopausal women, this criteria often applies if it is having an impact on your ability to do your job or your usual day to day activities.
It doesn’t have to be huge big changes either. Sometimes it’s just the little things that make a difference. I’ve listed in this post some of the more common adjustments that may be helpful that you can consider requesting.
Increasing trigger points
If you have had recurring short term absences that have led to triggering disciplinary procedures, it is worth asking your employer to consider your menopause-related symptoms as a chronic condition and to treat the absences as linked to that. Allowances can then be made to increase trigger points for example. Some employers also use certain sickness absence protocols such as Bradford Factor. This system penalises frequent short term absence and can often impact menopausal women.
If you’re not sleeping well because of symptoms such as night sweats or joint pain, you may take longer to get sorted in the mornings. Having some flexibility with your start and finish time can make a big difference.
Hot flushes or heavy periods are problematic for many women, you might benefit from more or longer breaks to help with keeping you fresh. Top tip: if you have a locker or a desk at work, it’s worth having a little kit with you for freshening up with things like wipes, deodorant, a change of underwear and a top plus any extras you feel would be useful. Your workplace might also have shower facilities. If so, think about having a towel and shower gel in work with you too in case you need to use them sometime.
Hot flushes, itchiness, weight gain and bloating can be problematic if you wear a uniform. You could request an alternative fabric if possible as a lot of uniforms tend to made of materials such as nylon. Cotton would be best as it is breathable. If this is not possible, you might be able to gain an exemption or wear an alternative. Being provided with additional uniforms can also be helpful to ensure you have enough supply if you need to change and wash them more frequently. Consider wearing a bigger size too to increase comfort and airflow. Easy access to toilet facilities is important. Consider the use of disabled toilets if you need private access to a sink to freshen up. Some areas have shower facilities that may not be open to all staff but exemptions might be possible.
Access to facilities
Hot flushes causing you problems? You might be better placed working near a window or having a fan. Access to cold drinking water is also important so your employer may be able to either invest in a water cooler or a fridge if they are not already available.
Loss of confidence, brain fog, forgetfulness, lack of focus and lack of concentration are not uncommon for menopausal women. You might find yourself struggling to take in new information, learn stuff or concentrate for long periods of time. Additional breaks, longer time to complete tasks, reduced targets and extended deadlines can all be helpful when you’re dealing with these symptoms. If you’re also dealing with low mood or your symptoms are worrying you, ask if your employer has an employee assistance programme. You might be able to access some counselling support if they do. Asking your employer to do a stress risk assessment can also be helpful to explore the specific aspects of your job that are impacting you. You don’t have to have been diagnosed with stress or a mental health problem to do this. It can be a really useful tool to outline where you’re struggling and what support can be put in place.
Joint or muscular pain, could be eased by having the right equipment. If your job involves moving and handling, a risk assessment will be helpful to see what adaptations can be made or what equipment could be provided.
If you stand for long periods, a perching stool or a chair might be helpful to allow you to alternate between sitting and standing. Similarly, if you sit at a desk for long periods, you might benefit from more comfortable seating, a rise and fall desk and an ergonomic mouse. Doing a DSE is a good starting point. A DSE is a standard display screen equipment assessment that covers not just the screens but your whole workstation. A template one can be downloaded from here if your employer doesn’t have their own.
If your employer has an occupational health service you should also request a referral to them. Often you can’t do this yourself but if you request it via your manager or HR, they are obligated to make a referral for you. The occupational health nurse will have specialist knowledge of adjustments and support and will also often know what support your employer has available that they can signpost or refer you to.
Ask your manager if your employer has an employee assistance programme you can access. Sometimes they can provide information and support regarding wellbeing but often they can also provide quick and easy access to services such as counselling and physiotherapy which can also be helpful depending on your symptoms.
As you can see, there’s no need to suffer in silence and often a lot that your employer can (and should!) do to help. This can go a long way to making work a lot more bearable when it’s the last place you feel like being! If you need any support with how to approach speaking to your employer, feel free to get in touch.