The government has now replied. Bet can you guess how many of them it accepted? It “accepted”, “partly accepted” or “accepted in principle” just half. This is beyond complacent.
Sometimes women leave work because the menopause symptoms are too much to bear, other times it’s because they are not being supported adequately enough in the workplace. Either way, a good employer should be addressing this because we are losing vital experience and valuable role models for younger women.
We need a regulated approach to menopause in the workplace, not a piecemeal one where each company can decide how it treats its menopausal employees. There are some brilliant companies out there offering guidance and advice on menopause in the workplace, but I’ve also seen a worrying rise in people with no training suddenly becoming HR menopause “experts” and charging huge sums of money for little or no real advice.
Plus there will be companies who will simply not bother about – or can afford – menopause training. The government should be setting a standard and leading by example. Instead, they’re passing the buck.
The government also rejected the proposal to make menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, arguing that with disability, sex and age all being protected characteristics, menopausal women are covered.
But menopause isn’t a disability and it’s dangerous to think of it that way. It’s a lifestage that will end and can be managed, not a disability. This is ignorant to the extreme on what women are going through.
Nor do those menopausal women who feel they have no choice but to leave work do so because of their sex. They do so because of menopause. And as for age, there are women who went through menopause as teenagers; others in their 20s or 30s because of hysterectomies or cancer treatment. How can they say the lack of support is because of ageism?
Making menopause a protected characteristic would give us proper legal protection in the workplace and that is desperately needed.
Another thing they say is not needed, despite being recommended by the experts who conducted this special report, is mandatory menopause training for GPs.
Yes, GPs are trained in menopause – but many tell me they have had around 20 minutes on it. They get more on learning how to budget their practice than on a healthcare issue that 51 per cent of the population go through. There is still so much misinformation around the safety of HRT. Some GPs just don’t know.
One step in the right direction was the government’s agreement that a public health campaign is needed. That’s what we’ve been campaigning for with Pausitivity for almost four years now. During those years, we’ve had NHS trusts and GPs and medical staff across the world download our posters because there is nothing out there for them to help their patients.
In the past few years, menopause has turned glossy – there are so many influencers out there who look amazing and seem to have fantastic lives.
Like all social media, that’s not the reality, but it’s pushing the message that all you need is HRT, more exercise, or this or that supplement.
And while that image remains in people’s minds, we’re going to struggle to get the government to listen and act.
But we’re not giving up. Pausitivity is committed to helping more people understand all that menopause can bring. That’s why our motto is #KnowYourMenopause!
Who knows how long it will be until the government acts – or if they ever will. But until then, we’ll be there increasing education around the menopause. Because menopause help shouldn’t just be for those who can afford £300 for a private consultation.