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The corporate revolution in menopause support

 Medicinal concept of menopause. [Getty Images]

In a groundbreaking move, Standard Chartered recently announced that it would be enhancing employee benefits by enhancing benefits for all its employees globally. In addition to extending parental leave to include six months of leave for both males and females, we also introduced a menopause cover, becoming one the first companies in Kenya and region to do so.

Covering menopause reflects our deep commitment to addressing the challenges faced by women navigating the often overlooked transition, shedding light on a crucial phase that significantly impacts both personal and professional aspects of their lives.

Menopause, a natural phase in every woman’s life, is now affecting one of the fastest-growing demographics in the workforce. Yet, the transition remains shrouded in silence, with potentially significant consequences for both employees and employers.

The impact of menopause on work is diverse and individualized.

Physical symptoms like hot flashes, headaches, and poor sleep, as well as psychological challenges such as anxiety and lack of confidence, can affect women differently. Alarmingly, one in four women consider leaving their jobs due to menopausal symptoms, according to a recent Wellbeing of Women survey.

That is why Standard Chartered, in collaboration with the Financial Services Skills Commission (FSSC), has undertaken a deep dive into understanding how menopause affects women in the workplace.

Our findings are quite shocking: 75% of women experience menopausal symptoms, with 25% facing severe challenges that adversely affect their perceived quality of life and work.

Further, one in four women even consider leaving their jobs due to the severity of these symptoms. These exits are particularly concerning as they often occur when women are at the peak of their career journeys, as menopause typically takes place between the ages of 45 and 55. Sadly, a prevailing culture of silence and misunderstanding surrounds the topic of menopause in the workplace.

Closing the Insurance Gap

Despite the extensive impact of menopause on women's lives, over one-third of group insurance policies globally exclude treatment related to menopause.

Our company’s move to include access to clinical advisors and prescription medications, including Hormone Replacement Therapy, within our medical policies was a journey that was educational for both parties, but one that we have successfully closed.

Internal Initiatives

While menopause has always been a part of women's lives, it is now a critical workplace issue, considering that one in three workers will soon be over 50, and retirement ages are extending to 68. Successful employment tribunals against employers who have been seen to discriminate against women going through the transition have already taken place, signaling the need for more proactive measures by employers.

But at Standard Chartered, we are also doing more than introducing enabling policies. We are also training male members of our teams so that we have an equal understanding of this critical issue.

Additionally, our bank is actively promoting workplace adjustments for menopausal colleagues, such as providing them with fixed desks or cooling fans, recognizing the importance of creating an environment that accommodates their unique needs.

Supporting menopausal women in the workplace is not just about compliance; it's about fostering an inclusive culture that benefits both employees and employers. The short and long-term returns on this investment are evident, with positive impacts on retention, motivation, and loyalty among employees.

It's time to recognize menopause for what it is: a natural part of life that should be embraced and supported in the workplace. By doing so, we not only create a healthier work environment but also future-proof our businesses by attracting and retaining a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Looking Ahead

Unfortunately, there is limited data on the effects of menopause on work productivity in Kenya and other developing countries, but we can borrow from global studies. Having a localized view would encourage more companies to create more inclusive policies.

For instance, the Government Equalities Report on Menopause (conducted in the UK) recommends organizations implement training, processes, and information dissemination. Clear and coherent guidelines can empower line managers to support their team members effectively.

Breaking the silence around menopause in the workplace is not just a matter of social responsibility; it is an economic imperative. Employers who champion the well-being of menopausal women will not only create more supportive and inclusive work environments but will also harness the full potential of their workforce. It is time to turn awareness into action, ensuring that menopausal women are not only seen but heard and supported in every workplace across the nation.

The writer, Evans Munyori, is the Head of Human Resources at Standard Chartered Bank Kenya

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