Employment

Employers must do more to keep experienced women in work, businesses and MPs told

Only 4% of UK women said they were aware of formal policies which support women through menopause, compared to 74% who said employers have a role in supporting women through the change.

Older women are likely to leave the workplace before men. Image: cottonbro studios/Pexels

An overwhelming majority of women are looking to business leaders and politicians to find ways to keep older female colleagues in the workforce, according to new research from the British Standards Institution (BSI), which warns of a “second glass ceiling” for working women later in life.

Nearly a third of women expect to leave work before retirement, the research found, with 42% citing health reasons and a fifth giving menopause as the reason.

“Rather than see the considerations facing older women as a challenge, we can gain by seeing this as an opportunity for investment in current and future generations and an opportunity to boost growth, innovation and accelerate progress towards a sustainable world,” said Anne Hayes, director of sectors at BSI.



The research report, titled “Lifting the second glass ceiling” found 75% of UK women want employers to take action to keep experienced women in work and 71% would like politicians to drive this change.

Only 4% said they were aware of formal policies at their organisation which support women through menopause, compared to 74% who said they believe employers have a role in supporting women through the change.

Deborah Garlick, chief executive of Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace, which supports employers with training and best practice, said the reports recommendations to “prioritise education, open the dialogue and train colleagues to build empathy and offer support are spot on”.

“Let’s not forget, employers have a legal obligation to be menopause friendly [under the 2010 Equality Act] and employees have every right to ask for help and receive it,” she added.

Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee made a range of recommendations to the government in its “menopause and the workplace” report of July 2022, including model policies for employers covering reasonable adjustments, education and training, sick leave, and flexible working.

“Whilst supporting the ambition, the government does not accept this recommendation, as we do not believe a model menopause policy is necessary at this moment,” came the government’s formal response.

Garlick continued: “Most employers know what they should be doing, the questions now are how do they become menopause friendly and what action do they need to take to change the lived experience of menopause in the workplace?

“To achieve a menopause friendly workplace, employers first need to create bespoke plans that meet their organisation’s specific needs. A good way to find out what needs to be in these plans is to host an event, such as a talk or a training session, to lift the lid on the issue and start the conversation. Listening to colleagues’ concerns here will help employers understand what’s getting in the way of people being at their best at work.

“We are seeing encouraging signs that responsible employers are looking to bring about meaningful change. Just yesterday over 1,250 organisations attended our free online masterclass where we explained the recently published BSI guidance document and gave practical tips on getting started on their menopause friendly journey.”

The report from BSI, which has been setting standards for British businesses for over 100 years, includes recommendations of its own. They are:

  • “Recognise the benefits of lifting the second glass ceiling. Rather than see this as a challenge, organisations can approach it as an opportunity to boost growth, innovation and accelerate progress towards a sustainable world. 
  • “Open the dialogue – ask women what they want – uncovering solutions that can reverse the trends and enable more women to thrive throughout their professional lives.
  • “Ensure support is available and accessible, whether around menopause or other considerations 
  • “See flexibility as an asset and recognize that small adjustments where possible can help ensure an accommodating workplace 
  • “Institute a broader culture of care – prioritize people by promoting individual needs.
  • “Share best practice – collaboration across organizations, sectors and countries can drive progress 

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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