Instead of quitting the job you love, it’s time to ask for help and #breakthebias

Women make up nearly half of the UK workforce, but around 900,000 have quit their jobs because of the menopause. So this International Women’s Day, with its theme of #breakthebias, there’s no better time to look at how menopausal women can get the help they need – instead of quitting the workforce in despair.

Why this is such a big problem
While the average age for menopause is 51, symptoms can start many years before and other factors, such as illness or surgery, can also be a catalyst. And without support and understanding from their employers, many women have no choice but to take time off when their symptoms are at their worst.

The working life of women has changed dramatically in just one single generation which means that 71% of those going through menopause will be at work. This natural hormonal change, which can last for years in some cases, can have a huge impact as it can mean working while enduring hot flushes, sweats, tiredness, loss of concentration, memory issues, brain fog, and a whole raft of accompanying symptoms.

According to Kathy Abernethy, Director of Menopause Services at Peppy and immediate past Chair of the British Menopause Society. “We know that one in four women considers leaving their job just because of the menopause, partly because they don’t feel they can ask for the adjustments that they might need in order to get on with their work. It can be a sticky issue to discuss with your manager, colleagues and peers. And this is why some women are choosing to opt out of work or to go for a lesser job”.

And for those women who do stay on in their job, the menopause may well impact on their ambitions, meaning they are less likely to put themselves up for promotion, training or new roles. There is a danger that women will not push themselves in the way that perhaps their male peers do. This will obviously impact the gender pay gap, which then impacts the pension deficit between men and women.

It’s time to ask for help

Working in the corporate world as a senior executive in financial services, Lauren Chiren left in her early 40s because she thought she had early onset dementia. In fact she was experiencing menopausal symptoms. Through her company Women of A Certain Stage she is helping educate organisations on menopause and offering support to women going through it.

“Many of us just do not realise that we are having perimenopause symptoms when we start experiencing sleeplessness, or brain fog or anxiety. We blame it on other things, thinking we are depressed or have dementia or that there is another underlying issue. And even going to the doctor doesn’t necessarily get us the answers, with too many women being fobbed off”.

Why the dearth of information?

“Our generation grew up in a very paternalistic male-dominated society. And whilst we’ve made massive advances as women and we’re working longer and later in life than we’ve ever done before, holding much more senior roles and running our own businesses, one of the hangovers of that paternalistic society is the fact that our doctors aren’t educated properly on menopause. And therefore, we don’t have access to what we should have on the medical side.

And whereas in the past women were at home when they went through menopause and they had their community to support them, nowadays we’re going through it at work. So while we’ve taken all these massive strides ahead in so many ways, we haven’t relinquished the caring responsibilities of the children and the elderly relatives and everything else. So our stress levels are much higher and our bodies are getting absolutely hammered when we go through menopause, yet because we’re in the working world, we want to be seen as capable and get taken seriously. We fear that asking for help and support might be deemed to be weak or vulnerable – we fear that we will be viewed as over the hill”.

What to do first

“The first port of call is to get yourself checked out. You need to have a blood test two or three times to check your hormone levels. Secondly, keep a diary of the symptoms and how badly they’re affecting you day to day. And once you’ve done that for two three weeks, you will start to see a pattern. With that in front of you, you can start to really get a handle on what type of health support you need.

Then have a conversation with your employer to say ‘This is what I’m going through and this is how it impacts me. Can we figure out a way that I can continue to work and accommodate these symptoms?’. Because at the end of the day, you don’t lose your skills, knowledge and experience. You’re still an incredible human being. You just need to adapt things for a little while until you address ways to manage your symptoms – whether that’s lifestyle changes, fitness, diet, HRT or other solutions”.

What if it backfires?

“Any decent employer worth their salt who has a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion agenda, if they’re taking it seriously and not just paying lip service, then they are starting to understand that the cost of a woman walking out of an organisation under any auspices, the loss of skills, knowledge and experience is huge to the organisation so the business impact and the business cost is massive. Whereas adjustments to help you manage your symptoms can be made really simply. Having access to the right help and support makes all the difference.

Where an organisation is open to the conversation, it’s not going to backfire. It’s not an easy conversation, and some companies are more open to it than others. But when you look at the increasing number of employment tribunals that are happening relating to the menopause – that employees are winning – then you can see the reputational risk and damage that’s been done to organisations that are not looking after their female staff through this life stage”

How to get help at work
“The menopause can create a real hump in the road for working women. You may love your job and be very competent at it, but sometimes it needs to be done differently while you are menopausal – which means discussing it with your manager,” says Kathy Abernethy at Peppy.

Simple workplace adjustments
A few changes to the work environment can make all the difference. “Look at the possibility of flexible working and being able to work from home to make symptoms more manageable. Ask for adjustments within the work environment, like sitting next to a window or moving from an enclosed space at work to one that is open and airy,” advises Kathy.

A change of uniform
If you work in a uniformed organisation, natural materials are best. “Man-made fibres tend to make hot flushes and sweats far worse. In this case ask for extra uniforms so menopausal staff can change if need be,” says Kathy.

Expert help at your fingertips
Says Kathy: “When I talk to people about the menopause, it’s never just about their hormones. It happens at a time in life when we are hit by lots of other things at once. So if employers can put in place personalized support, such as we offer at Peppy, it can really help them while making that transition through the menopause”.

To contact Lauren Chiren go to For more information on Peppy go to

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