Sixth Form Colleges Association - The Menopause Guide for Employers 2022

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Until fairly recently, there had been little focus on the effects of the menopause and the changes caused by the menopause transition. Now, it is a very high-profile issue.

In some cultures and communities, the menopause is a taboo and private issue and this is true in the workplace. As such, there is little awareness surrounding it and women may find they feel they can’t talk openly about the subject. In many cases, those transitioning through menopause may not recognise that it is the menopause which is behind their changes and so will choose to not talk about it or ask for help. In addition, women may find it hard to talk about their personal transition through menopause in work if their manager and colleagues do not know about the menopause and the related physical and emotional effects, or they fear their performance or job security will be at risk if they reveal issues.

In May 2022, the Fawcett Society published its report Menopause and the Workplace. The report is based on data from the largest ever survey of menopausal and perimenopausal women. The report found there are significant challenges in the workplace with detrimental impacts for menopausal women. Further details of the report’s findings are set out on page 6.

The Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) is committed to supporting colleges to provide an inclusive and supportive working environment for their staff, and colleges are committed to supporting staff affected by the menopause.

This guide, along with a model menopause policy, can be found on the members’ area of the SFCA website.

The menopause transition happens to most women at some point in their lives. It is not always an easy transition and there can be an adverse impact on working lives and their lives generally. The menopause can also impact trans and non-binary people who may not identify as female.

The purpose of the menopause policy and this guidance is to:

• Raise awareness of the menopause and its impact

• Encourage open conversations between management/HR and staff

• Direct staff to relevant advice and assistance



The natural menopause is when a person stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. It usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age.

In the UK, the average age for the menopause is 51 but for 1 in 100 women this can happen before the age of 40. This is known as premature or early menopause and can be particularly distressing for younger women, as this transition is often unplanned and unexpected with implications for fertility and other aspects of health.

However, some people go through medically induced menopause as part of medical treatment and this may be a temporary menopause, which is reversed once the treatment stops. Some go through surgical menopause, for instance as a result of a hysterectomy or chemotherapy. Medically induced and surgical menopause can happen at a much earlier age.




Perimenopause is the phase before a woman actually goes through menopause and usually starts several years before. It is when the ovaries gradually make less of the hormones which control a woman’s periods: oestrogen and progesterone. The drop in oestrogen levels causes the signs usually associated with the menopause.

Women on average will be in their 40s when perimenopause starts but this can happen earlier in some cases. The perimenopause will usually last for around 7 years but changes are often more noticeable for an average of 4 years. However, for around 1 in 10 women perimenopause lasts for up to 12 years.

Perimenopause ends when a woman has gone 12 months without having a period.


Menopause is when a woman has gone 12 months without experiencing a period and so the menopause technically only lasts for 1 day. The average age for this to occur is 51.


The postmenopausal years are all those following the menopause. During this stage, changes experienced during perimenopause usually ease and disappear after 2-3 years, although for some women aspects like hot flushes may continue for longer. Low oestrogen has an impact on brain, bone and heart health and can increase the risk of a number of health conditions. It’s important for those transitioning through menopause to keep on top of their health and wellbeing.



People are likely to transition through menopause when they are approaching middle age.

This is a time when there could already be increased stress and emotional changes happening such as losing family members, caring for elderly relatives, and worries about getting older or children leaving home. In addition, surgical menopause is often accompanied by trauma, stress and emotional or physical changes.

The physical symptoms of the perimenopause, changes in hormone levels and existing combined stresses can cause many psychological difficulties including loss of self-confidence, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. These can manifest and make some women feel less able to do their job and impact on their working life.

Further details about the symptoms of menopause can be found at

Below are some of the most common symptoms impacting on women’s confidence in work and some guidance on how to ease them but please remember, there is no one way to transition through menopause –everyone’s experience is different.

Hot flushes and night sweats

Hot flushes are short, sudden feelings of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest, which can make skin red and sweaty. Around 80% of women experience hot flushes which can cause embarrassment and anxiety as they might assume people around them are going to notice. Ways to help reduce these episodes are:

• An employee may ask for a fan to provide relief, or ask to be seated away from any heat sources or windows that have direct sunlight coming through them

• Drink water. All colleges have water facilities

• Wear thin layers which can be easily removed

• An employee may make a request through their line manager/HR department about having access to a quiet area if they are having a severe hot flush

Difficulty sleeping

Difficulty sleeping can be linked directly to the menopause but can also be due to the anxiety created by experiencing the other symptoms such as night sweats. There are many useful resources with helpful advice on how to get a good night’s sleep. Lack of sleep can also inhibit performance at work due to tiredness and lack of concentration and an employee should discuss any concerns with their line manager/HR department, and measures such as a flexible working request or working from home could be discussed.


Poor concentration and memory

This can be brought on by fatigue through a lack of sleep, or be due to the hormonal changes, and can be concerning and stressful to women when they have trouble remembering things or experience mental blocks.

• An employee can see if there is a trend for when concentration is better or worse and discuss with their line manager/HR department the option to adjust their working pattern accordingly

• Review task allocation and workload with their line manager/HR department

• Reduce interruptions and have an agreed, protected time to catch up with work. It could be arranged through the employee’s line manager/HR department that a meeting room is booked out once a week to give the employee dedicated quiet time. Remember to factor in regular breaks in the working day too as these can help to refocus

• Create lists or have an action board showing priorities and things that need to be done

Low mood, anxiety and panic attacks

This can manifest itself outwardly as mood swings and irritability due to low levels of oestrogen causing irregularities in the brain.

• An employee can discuss these symptoms with their line manager/HR department so they are aware, and agree appropriate time out if required

• Undertake mindfulness activities such as breathing exercises or going for a walk. There is an abundance of apps which can aid in this

• An employee can contact their Menopause Mentor or Mental Health First Aider where available

• An employee can contact the Employee Assistance Helpline where available

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) can also be used to reduce the impact of certain symptoms and the Women’s Health Concern website provides some useful information about this non-medical approach. If symptoms occurring include low mood, difficulty sleeping, anxiety or panic attacks then an employee is advised to speak to their GP for further support and to discuss medication which could be prescribed.

Other common signs are:

• A reduced sex drive (libido)

• Headaches

• Palpitations – heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable

• Joint stiffness, aches and pains

• Reduced muscle mass

• Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs), such as cystitis

Menopause signs checklists can be found online. A good example is provided on Over the Bloody Moon’s website.



According to the Fawcett Report:

• 10% of women who have worked during the menopause left a job due to their symptoms

• 14% reduced their hours at work

• 8% had not applied for promotion

• These statistics above are all higher for disabled women

• 80% of women say their employer hasn’t shared information, trained staff, or put in place a menopause absence policy

• More women described difficulty sleeping and brain fog as being “difficult” or “very difficult” than hot flushes or night sweats (70%)

• 41% of respondents said that the menopause or its symptoms were treated as a joke by people at work

Other studies have shown that issues related to menopause can have a substantial impact on attendance and performance in the workplace, which can be wrongly identified as a performance issue.

There are wide-ranging practical implications for employers:

• Increased turnover of staff

• Less gender diversity in senior roles

• Adverse impact on gender pay gap

• Increased sickness absence (the Fawcett Report found that many women were reluctant to reveal the real reason for their absence)

• Increased use of capability proceedings where the employer is unaware the individual is experiencing the menopause



The number of Employment Tribunal cases is still relatively low but is increasing (0.05% of cases).

Menopause Experts reported in May 2022 that Employment Tribunal claims had increased by 44% in a year (from 16 claims to 23). The cases were claims for disability discrimination, unfair dismissal and sex discrimination.

However, that low number of claims probably does not reflect the volume of issues arising in the workplace. Matters may be raised as grievances and resolved before ever becoming claims. Claims may be settled and never make it to an Employment Tribunal hearing.

There is no specific legislation to protect staff going through menopause transition and claims have to be fitted into existing legislation.

Under the Equality Act 2010, menopause discrimination is largely covered under three protected characteristics:

• Age

• Sex

• Disability

There can also be claims for harassment and victimisation.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 there is a duty to conduct suitable and sufficient risk assessments which includes identifying groups of workers who might be particularly at risk.

Some of the reported Employment Tribunal cases are presented on the grounds of disability discrimination. However, the claimant needs to establish that they fall within the legal definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010:

A physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

For example, in Rooney v Leicester City Council (Employment Appeal Tribunal 2021), Ms Rooney brought claims of constructive unfair dismissal, direct disability discrimination, harassment and victimisation and direct sex discrimination.

The Employment Tribunal held that Ms Rooney was not suffering from a disability in relation to her menopause symptoms of anxiety and depression. Her disability discrimination claim was dismissed, along with her claims of harassment and victimisation.

The EAT allowed her appeal. The Employment Tribunal had made an error in law in holding that she was not a disabled person. Ms Rooney’s symptoms included hot flushes and sweating, palpitations and anxiety, night sweats and sleep disturbance, fatigue, poor concentration, urinary problems and headaches. These symptoms had a substantial adverse effect on her normal day-today activities.

The EAT remitted the claims to be considered by a fresh Employment Tribunal.



The Sixth Form Colleges Association has prepared a model menopause policy and in addition to putting in place their own menopause policy, colleges could take a range of proactive steps such as:

• Being familiar with this guide

• Arranging awareness training for all staff

• Having trained menopause mentors

• Making available accessible online resources

In addition, SFCA has signed the Wellbeing of Women’s Menopause Workplace Pledge, and colleges may wish to do the same. For more details please refer to:


As a first step an employee should consult with their GP on the management of menopause and to ensure that any symptoms are not due to any other causes.

A checklist can help an employee make the most of their time with the GP, and a tracker can help an employee to keep track of what they are noticing and the impact it is having on them.

Examples of a checklist and tracker can be found on Over the Bloody Moon’s website.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and practising relaxation and mindfulness activities can help an employee’s experience of the menopause.

The HR Department can also help to provide support within the workplace and can provide details of any Employee Assistance helpline.



Colleges have an important role to play in ensuring that anyone experiencing menopausal symptoms gets the same support and understanding as if they had any other health issue.

Effective management of team members with menopausal symptoms that are impacting on their work will help to improve morale, retain a valuable balance of skills and talent, and reduce sickness absence. Good people management is fundamental to supporting health and wellbeing, spotting early signs of ill health or distress, and initiating early intervention.

While any health condition can understandably be a sensitive and personal issue for many, some of the symptoms associated with the menopause can manifest themselves in a particularly intimate, even invisible, way. It is therefore understandable why many women could feel embarrassed and reluctant to discuss the impact of their symptoms. Therefore, cultivate conversations with genuine interest using active listening and empathy.

Colleges can help to create a supportive environment so that colleagues feel at ease and comfortable to discuss aspects that are bothering or concerning them.

Colleges should ensure:

• Adequate time is booked to have the conversation

• An appropriate room is booked to preserve confidentiality. It may be that the room is booked in a different area/floor to where the individual sits, to avoid questions from other colleagues

• Colleagues are encouraged to speak openly and honestly

• This guide is given to colleagues so that they have details of how symptoms can be eased and where to go for further support

• Appropriate adjustments are discussed. Simple changes to someone’s role or working environment can help to ensure the menopause does not become a barrier to performance. Colleges should consider and put in place reasonable adjustments to alleviate or remove these barriers wherever possible, so that people transitioning through menopause can carry on performing in their role. Simple adjustments that could be made include:

• Providing desk fans

• Providing a ventilated space to sit (such as under air conditioning or by an open window)

• Agreeing actions, how these will be implemented and timeframes for agreed implementations

• Ensuring anything shared in the meeting is treated as confidential and is not shared with anyone without the individual’s prior consent. Any record made of the meeting should be stored securely

• Booking in follow-up meetings with their colleague to check the agreed actions are having a positive impact and to check they feel supported. Experiences of the menopause can fluctuate over time, so make sure there are regular discussions with their colleague to ensure that the support still meets their needs

• Someone’s health condition, including menopausal symptoms, should be treated as confidential. If a colleague wants information about their condition to be shared, consent must be explicit. The discussions should include a conversation about who will be told and by whom, as well as the information they do or don’t want shared with colleagues



• The HR Department can provide further guidance and support for line managers/managers and individuals

• College Menopause Mentors (where available) can provide additional guidance and support

• Employee Assistance Helpline (where available) – this is completely confidential and support can be provided via telephone or online

• The colleges’ Mental Health First Aiders (where available) are available to any colleague who wants to discuss the impact of menopause on their mental health or their general mental health and wellbeing

• GPs – This is the best first step in menopause management. Most GPs can arrange for their patients to have a blood test to show if they are in perimenopause. GPs can also advise on medication such as HRT or offer counselling support

• Menopause café – this is an initiative which travels around the country and allows women who attend to discuss the menopause with others going through it. A list of their events is on their website

• ACAS – Advice and practical guidance for employees and employers

• CIPD – Guidance for Line Managers on menopause

• Over the Bloody Moon – Strategies from leading menopause specialists

• Menopause Support – Strategies to improve menopause support

• Menopause Matters UK – Information about menopausal symptoms and treatment

• House of Commons Inquiry – Inquiry about menopause and the workplace



On 18 July 2022, the Government published its policy paper Menopause and the Workplace: How to enable fulfilling lives.

This was published in response to an independent report from 25 November 2021 about the impact of the menopause on women’s working lives particularly in the latter stages of their career.

The report contained ten recommendations to bring about comprehensive change and the Government policy paper responds to these. Here are some of the key points:

• The Government does not believe further changes to the Equality Act 2010 are needed

• The Government will explore how to develop suitable methodology to quantify the cost of the menopause to individuals, businesses, health services and society

• One or more Menopause Employment Champions will be appointed by the Minister for Employment

• Menopause remains a priority across Government and in society

• There will be a Government-backed employer-led campaign with links to advice, guidance and best practice case studies

• Large employers will be expected to put in place workplace awareness, training and support via Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) with a “champion” point of contact

There are no further details about these initiatives.

On 28 July 2022, the Women and Equalities Committee published its report Menopause and the Workplace.

The report states that employers’ lack of support for menopausal symptoms is pushing “highly skilled and experienced” women out of work, with knock-on effects on the gender pay gap, the pension gap and the number of women in senior leadership positions.

The Committee calls on the Government to amend the Equality Act 2010 to allow dual discrimination claims based on more than one protected characteristic and to consult on making menopause a new protected characteristic.

It also calls for a duty on employers to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees and for a new Menopause Ambassador who will champion good practice to keep women in the workplace.

There are no further details about these initiatives.



The Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) is the established voice of dedicated sixth form education and the hub of a national network of sixth form providers.

For more information about this guide please contact: Tel: 020 3824 0468 Tel: 029 2068 6000