Menopause: it’s time to revolutionise what The Change means for nurses at work

Employers must recognise nursing is especially challenging for women who are in the menopause

Colleagues at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust discuss the issue with
the help of literature produced by their employer  Picture: Tim George

Have you ever talked to someone at work about the menopause?

Perhaps it was to grumble to a colleague about the drenching combination of the nurse’s uniform and the hot flush, or maybe you were the one offering the sympathetic ear. Informal chats between peers may be relatively easy to have, but nurses and their managers, on the other hand, are not talking enough about how employers can offer staff their support.

Little support from employers for menopausal nursing staff

According to the results of our menopause survey, just 5% of 2,241 nurses who responded to our poll were aware of a menopause policy in their workplace. Respondents reported receiving little support even if they had raised the issue with a superior.

These findings aren’t particularly surprising because there is currently no legal requirement for such provisions in the workplace.

Consider the demographics of the nursing profession

However, when you look at the demographics of the nursing profession it is outrageous that most employers have nothing embedded in their human resources policies.

The most obvious argument for NHS employers introducing local menopause/perimenopause policies is that most of their nursing staff are women, with almost half of this occupational group aged 41 and older.

One in ten women in menopause will experience symptoms, which include night sweats, palpitations, pain and urinary tract infections, for as long as 12 years. The average timespan for having symptoms is four years.

Maternity rights are embedded, but menopause rights are not

The law rightly mandates support – including a degree of job flexibility – for pregnant employees, so similar rights should be afforded those going through perimenopause and menopause.

Most of the necessary workplace adaptations are obvious, for example flexibility in working hours and shift patterns and ready access to cold water – a basic right that should of course be respected for every employee.

Enlightened employers can lead the way

We can all learn from progressive organisations such as Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Solent NHS Trust, where almost eight out of ten staff are women and the menopause is actively discussed and support offered.

So let’s all do what we can to rebrand The Change to mean a revolution in the support nurses are given to stay in the profession during what can be a particularly challenging life stage.

Browse RCNi’s menopause resources