Menopause forces women to leave jobs or cut hours – study

A majority of women polled said their workplace offered no menopause support.

A woman with her head in her hands
A woman with her head in her hands

Symptoms of the menopause and a lack of support are forcing some women to take time off work and even leave their jobs, research suggests.

A poll of 3,800 women in the UK found that most felt the menopause or the months and years leading up to it (known as the perimenopause) had had a huge impact on their careers.

The research was carried out for menopause medic Dr Louise Newson, who runs the not-for-profit Newson Health Research And Education.

She has worked with celebrities including TV presenter Davina McCall on raising awareness of what women go through when they hit the menopause.

The 12-question survey, which is being presented at the Royal College of GPs’ annual conference, was promoted in Newson’s newsletter and on its social media to attract respondents.

The survey found 99% of women felt their perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms had led to a negative impact on their careers, with more than a third calling the impact significant.

Some 59% had taken time off work due to their symptoms, with 18% off more than eight weeks.

Reasons for taking time off included reduced efficiency (45%), poor quality of work (26%) and poor concentration (7%).

Half of those who took at least eight weeks off work resigned or took early retirement.

Overall, one in five (21%) women passed on the chance to go for a promotion they would have otherwise considered, 19% reduced their hours and 12% resigned.

A majority (60%) of women said their workplace offered no menopause support.

Of those women who were issued a sick note, 5% had menopause cited on their certificate, while more than a third had anxiety or stress documented.

Only one in four (26%) women discussed their hormones with their doctor, with 30% prescribed antidepressants.

This is despite guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence saying low mood due to the menopause can be treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or cognitive behavioural therapy.

Dr Newson said: “For far too long menopausal women have been faced with an impossible choice: struggle on with often debilitating symptoms or leave behind careers they have worked so hard for.

“The average age of the menopause in the UK is 51, at precisely the point where many women are the peak of their careers with an abundance of skills and experience to offer.

“The problem is widespread, including at the heart of healthcare. Some 77% of the NHS workforce are women and a significant number of these will be perimenopausal and menopausal. In fact, research shows that only one in 10 female GPs had discussed their symptoms with a manager.

“The issues raised in this survey show not only an urgent need to improve menopause support in the workplace but access to evidence-based menopause information and treatment to ease and improve symptoms.

“We owe this to all menopause women to help them reach their career potential.”

Earlier this month, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, spoke about the “tragic” impact menopause is having on women in the workplace.

The royal, who is married to Prince Edward, has backed a new campaign by the Wellbeing of Women charity that calls on companies to ensure they are supporting employees through menopause.

Menopausal symptoms can include memory problems, fatigue and anxiety.

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