This month marks World Menopause Day – what is your firm doing to support female colleagues undergoing menopausal symptoms? 

By Editor Katie Scott 

This month, attendees at Insurance Times’ Broker CEO Forum flagged that the Covid-19 pandemic has helped bring employee wellbeing to the fore, with a particular focus on mental health linked to lockdown-induced homeworking. 

However, 18 October marked World Menopause Day and it has been a delight to see an influx of emails arriving in my inbox from insurance firms that are looking to support the physical and mental health of women experiencing menopause and its many symptoms. 

According to the NHS, menopause is a natural part of ageing when a woman’s periods stop - typically this occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. Its symptoms can include hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and problems with memory and concentration. 

Katie Scott_bw_path

Katie Scott

As an example, insurer RSA and broker Partners& are both seeking to gain a ‘Menopause Friendly’ accreditation, which recognises employers that understand how menopause can impact staff at work and acknowledges organisations that are striving to achieve an inclusive culture.  

The accreditation is awarded by an independent expert panel, supported by workplace training organisation Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace. The accolade celebrates businesses that showcase the right menopause awareness, education and support for its employees. 

As part of the accreditation process, Partners& plans to develop new internal policies, training and practices, including delivering training and events for employees, line managers and HR colleagues. It also intends to develop best practice tool kits, featuring videos, e-learning and webinars. 

Alongside this work, Partners& acknowledged World Menopause Day last week with a range of activities, such as sharing information-based articles and details of a Menopause Support Plan from Bupa with staff. Meditation sessions will also run throughout the month. 

Phil Barton, chief executive of Partners&, said: “The health and wellbeing of our colleagues is critical to our success. We want to remove the taboo of talking about the menopause and make sure our colleagues feel included and supported at work.   

“I believe that by becoming a Menopause Friendly employer, we will continue to attract the best talent, who increasingly look to work within a supportive and modern culture.” 

Helen Symonds, HR advice leader at RSA, added: “The statistics clearly show there are a huge number of women who are struggling in the workplace because of this normal and inevitable process.  

“Normalising menopause at work and making it unremarkable is the right thing to do and long overdue.  

“By removing the stigma, we want colleagues to understand they are not alone and the correct support is available. We hope accreditation will make colleagues going through this happier, more committed and satisfied in their roles.” 

Breaking the taboo 

Claims management company Crawford and Company also utilised World Menopause Day to launch its new menopause policy and support framework for its 1,450 employees in the UK. 

This includes menopause counselling before, during and after the onset of symptoms, delivered through the organisation’s employee assistance programme, as well as an amended sickness policy that includes optional, additional menopause leave of up to 10 days, specifically designed for women experiencing symptoms.  

The support framework also features a menopause guide for employees, to encourage more conversations about menopause, increase awareness and signpost support resources. The business will additionally undertake menopause awareness training for its leaders and managers, delivered by Henpicked. 

Crawford and Company also plan to provide a series of podcasts and webinars on the topic, have signed the Workplace Menopause Pledge, is promoting an app called Balance that tracks menopause symptoms and is highlighting medical support available through its employee private medical cover scheme. 

Lisa Bartlett, president, UK and Ireland at Crawford and Company, said: “Menopause has a profound impact on a huge and growing portion of the workforce, yet the lack of awareness and stigma around this subject prevents far too many women from accessing support at what can be a pivotal time in their careers.  

“Crawford is committed to equipping all our employees and line managers with the knowledge, resources and confidence to speak openly and honestly about these issues, so that menopausal women get the help they need. It’s time to break the taboo.”  

Andrew Bart, Crawford and Company’s president of international loss adjusting, added: “Menopause costs $150bn (£109bn) in global productivity losses and 14 million workdays in the UK every year.  

“It also clearly contributes to the fact that while women account for 45% of the UK financial services workforce, only one in three senior leadership positions is held by a woman.  

“It is therefore vital we learn more about this topic and help this extremely important cohort of employees remain productive and at work by providing the right environment and support.” 

Driving D&I agendas 

Prior to joining Insurance Times, I worked at a publication centred around employee benefits. I was there for around three and a half years and during my tenure, I wrote one feature on menopause support for employees – at that point in time, not many organisations had jumped on the bandwagon and opened their eyes as to why this type of support can prove to be so beneficial, for both staff and the broader company. 

Alongside poor mental health, menopause also suffers from being a taboo subject, so boosting awareness about what menopause actually is, as well as its symptoms, can not only offer women experiencing it greater support to diminish feelings of isolation and embarrassment, but it can also provide an insight into how women can still be productive while juggling symptoms.  

Taking on an early shift after a night of hot flushes and sleep deprivation is not ideal, for example, but working later into the evening when it is generally cooler could be a solution. In this respect, today’s post-pandemic hybrid and flexible working options could tie in to menopause support work. 

With diversity and inclusion taking greater priority on many leaders’ agendas, subjects such as menopause support should also be getting greater airtime and recognition.  

In the same way that businesses seek to encourage a diverse mix of graduates to join the insurance industry and opt for a financial services career, women experiencing menopause should also be supported to remain in work and not be driven from their job roles due to feeling overwhelmed and undersupported with their symptoms. 

Well done to the insurance firms leading the way on this. 

Promoting paternity leave 

parent, newborn

In a different vein, hats off also go to insurer Zurich for impressive take up of its enhanced paternity leave package, which was initially launched back in 2019 for the company’s 4,500 UK staff. 

Since the scheme launched, 63% of new dads working for the insurer have opted to take the full 16 weeks of fully paid paternity leave. Over two-thirds (68%) have taken over 10 weeks off work following their child’s birth and 74% have taken at least a month to bond with their new arrival. 

Steve Collinson, Zurich’s UK head of people, said: “By enhancing statutory provision for all parents, we are supporting them in playing a more active role in family life.  

“To allow more families to benefit, we would urge [the] government to enhance the statutory pay for fathers and second parents, which in turn will shift the dial and encourage more employers to follow suit.” 

Zurich defines its paternity leave policy as applying to “all second parents (defined as biological father, second legal parent, or partner of the parent that gives birth who will be involved in the care of the baby or child, regardless of gender, gender identity and sexual orientation) including those in same-sex relationships”.