Being 50 plus in the workplace: menopause and beyond!


Ageing, menopause & the workplace

A recent survey published by the Centre for Ageing, highlighted how the over 50s, both men and women are being discriminated against in the workplace. We asked an expert, Julie Dennis, who advises organisations on best practice for supporting women in menopause, for her thoughts on this, which she kindly shared with us.


Why improving the work environment for women working through menopause will help.

Julie Dennis, Menopause Coach

With the average UK employee in their 40s and nearly a third of UK workers over the age of 50 you would expect employers to have a robust framework in place to recruit, retain and develop this valuable sector of their workforce.  However the reality, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Centre for Ageing Better for employees over the age of 50, is quite the opposite:

·      46% felt their age put them at a disadvantage when applying for a job.

·      32% believed they were offered fewer opportunities for training and progression than younger colleagues.

·      20% thought younger colleagues viewed them as less competent because of their age.

These statistics do not bode well for the millions of women working through menopause in the UK.  The average age for menopause is 51 but symptoms like hot flushes, brain fog, low energy, sleep disturbance and anxiety tend to emerge mid to late 40s.  These symptoms impact the working lives not just of the women affected but their colleagues too.  Typical examples include:

  • Poor memory and concentration resulting in a drop in confidence, performance and productivity.

  • Sleep disturbance effecting memory, the ability to think strategically and manage moods.

  • Unpredictable hot flushes resulting in a reluctance to lead internal or client facing meetings.

The following statements collected as part of my 2018 Menopause at Work survey further demonstrate the challenges faced by women working through menopause.

 “I can’t focus on tasks at hand.  My mood swings are affecting the team and my lack of confidence means I am now questioning my ability.”

 “Dripping with sweat makes me very self-conscious when talking to colleagues.”

 “Brain fog means I struggle to find the right word to use when corresponding with clients.  I feel slower.”

 So what can employers do to promote a more diverse and age friendly environment and specifically support women working through menopause?  Could workplace policies be the answer?  The Centre for Ageing Better’s report suggests not.  Whilst nearly half of employers have a policy with regards to preventing age discrimination many respondents felt it made no difference to their situation.  I’d argue that workplace policies are essential but they only make a difference as part of a wider strategy and accompanying training programme.

 The Centre for Ageing Better is urging employers to adopt five key approaches to attain an age friendly workforce:

  1. Be flexible about flexible working.  Offering flexible working in terms of hours, schedule and location can make a huge difference to an employee’s effectiveness and performance.

  2. Hire age positively.  Returner programmes help employees transition back into the workplace via a structured plan.

  3. Ensure everyone has the health support they need.  Educating line managers how to recognize health conditions in staff, initiate conversations and implement reasonable adjustments is critical.

  4. Encourage career development at all ages.  With many workers expecting to remain in employment through their 60s and beyond, career support and training is wholly relevant to engagement and retention at any age.

  5. Create an age positive culture.  The attitudes and actions of leaders, HR professionals, line managers and colleagues all play a part in the success of age friendly policies and practices.

Each of these tactics will help improve the experience of women working through menopause. It is interesting that those organisations that have focused on this issue typically find the above measures fit comfortably within their working practices.  The trick is to focus on an issue that is otherwise rarely discussed.  Crucially, it is not about singling older employees out for special treatment, male or female, it is about promoting an inclusive workforce where everyone is valued.

Julie Dennis, Menopause Coach and consultant, is on a mission to take menopause mainstream and improve the lives of women working through menopause across the UK. She works with organisations that want to promote a diverse and inclusive workforce and support women working through menopause. Catch Julie talking at ‘Hot Flush talking menopause with the experts’. in January 2019. Email for more details.