What is a ‘menopause-friendly’ employer?

Speaker of the House of Commons signs pledge as awareness of the issue grows

Mariella Frostrup, MP Carolyn Harris, Penny Lancaster and Davina McCall
Mariella Frostrup, MP Carolyn Harris, Penny Lancaster and Davina McCall have been campaigning for greater awareness of the impact of the menopause
(Image credit: Steve Parsons/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo)

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has vowed to make the House of Commons a “menopause-friendly” employer.

The Commons speaker signed a pledge committing to adjustments including well-ventilated rooms and fans, flexible working and breathable uniforms, noted The Independent.

Hoyle said the menopause should not be a “taboo subject” that was “swept under the carpet”.

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What is the pledge?

The Menopause Workplace Pledge, launched by the Wellbeing of Women charity, obliges employers to recognise that women going through the menopause may need support and to talk openly and respectfully about the subject.

Those who have signed have committed to recognising that “the menopause can be an issue in the workplace and women need support,” to “talking openly, positively and respectfully about the menopause” and to “actively supporting and informing” employees affected by the menopause.

It has been signed by more than 600 organisations including the civil service, Tesco and John Lewis.

Growing awareness

Writing for The i, Rachel Lankester said that whereas the menopause “used to be dismissed as ‘the change’” and was “shrouded in shame and secrecy”, if you “flick through the news of late” it “seems like the menopause is everywhere”.

As awareness grows, the menopause has recently been linked to an increase in suicide, job loss and the number of women in prison in midlife. In May, broadcaster Davina McCall revealed in a Channel 4 documentary that she nearly quit presenting due to brain fog, and the model Penny Lancaster spoke of “throwing plates” in rage.

The Times noted that MPs and doctors have joined McCall and Lancaster to demand that GP surgeries should have a “menopause champion” to end a postcode lottery that means millions are denied vital medication.

Writing for The Telegraph, Suzanne Moore welcomed a “new-found openness about menopause” and said the experience itself comes with positives.

Is Westminster women-friendly?

Hoyle’s signing of the menopause pledge has been widely welcomed, but it is not the first time that the question of whether Westminster is female-friendly has been asked. There are currently 225 female MPs in the House of Commons, according to the Commons Library. At 35%, this is an all-time high but still lower than that of many comparable European nations.

In a report in March, cross-party MPs called for a “gender-sensitive House of Commons”, recommending a number of steps, including strengthening sanctions against those who target female politicians with threatening and harmful online harassment and abuse.

“The age-old issue of misogyny in the world of Westminster has continued to rock British politics this year,” said Channel 4’s The Four Cast podcast, referring to events including an MP’s resignation for watching pornography in the Commons, and slurs that Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner used “Basic Instinct” tactics to distract Boris Johnson, and a myriad sexual misconduct claims.

Labour’s Stella Creasy has also highlighted the difficulties of MPs obtaining adequate maternity leave and cover after having a baby. “We can’t be in a position where we think it’s acceptable that most women in public life are either of a certain age, or have made the choice not to have children,” she told The Guardian.

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Chas Newkey-Burden has been part of The Week Digital team for more than a decade and a journalist for 25 years, starting out on the irreverent football weekly 90 Minutes, before moving to lifestyle magazines Loaded and Attitude. He was a columnist for The Big Issue and landed a world exclusive with David Beckham that became the weekly magazine’s bestselling issue. He now writes regularly for The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, Metro, FourFourTwo and the i new site. He is also the author of a number of non-fiction books.