The importance of supporting menopause in education

Navigating menopause is an increasingly prevalent issue in the current education climate. In the UK up to 10% of women leave their jobs due to menopausal symptoms, something the teaching profession can ill afford. When Still Human’s founder Julie Liddell recently met with Helen Tomlinson (the Government’s Menopause Employment Champion) she said: 

‘Education is a key pillar of cultural change in any organisation and it is particularly important in the education sector where the staff are predominantly female (75%) and the roles by their very nature don't provide much in the way of autonomy from a workspace perspective. Therefore, reasonable adjustments can be a challenge, so knowledge around menopause and increasing understanding is critical.’ 

Thanks to the government’s engagement and support for working women, the education sector is encouraged to open the conversation in schools and colleges, to help support their staff who may be experiencing symptoms of menopause. Menopause awareness is not just for women, in our experience, male colleagues have really benefitted from broadening their understanding of the stages and symptoms of menopause, so that they can support their colleagues, partners or friends, and are proud to be a ‘Meno-Man’!  

Inclusivity isn’t just about gender, race, or age—it also involves health issues that can affect work. Supporting menopausal employees demonstrates a commitment to all aspects of employee welfare, enhancing the company's image as a diverse and inclusive employer. In acknowledging that menopause can be a significant health issue, schools and colleges can create a more supportive, inclusive and compassionate environment which is alignment with the duty of care afforded to all staff.  

Menopause is a natural stage in a woman’s life, typically occurring between the ages of 45 and 55, marked by the end of menstrual cycles. Despite impacting up to 75% of teaching workforce, menopause is seldom discussed openly, especially in professional settings. However, as workplace demographics shift and the conversation around diversity and inclusion grows louder, recognising and accommodating menopause in the workplace has become imperative.  

Menopause is not merely a biological process; it comes with a spectrum of symptoms that can affect a woman's physical and mental health. These can include hot flushes, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and cognitive changes like decreased concentration and memory lapses. Such symptoms can inadvertently affect performance, engagement and job satisfaction, which in turn impact productivity and more importantly, wellbeing in the workplace.  

By providing support for menopausal symptoms, employers can decrease absenteeism and reduce turnover rates, and women who feel supported are less likely to take extended leaves or exit the workforce prematurely. Addressing the symptoms of menopause through flexible work policies and other accommodations can also help maintain or even boost productivity. Simple changes in the workplace environment, like cooler workspaces or access to private rest areas, can make a significant difference. 

Knowing where or how to start the menopause conversation in your education setting can be daunting, the first step is to get engagement from the top. School leaders are critical in shaping the culture of any organisation but with the clear benefits of embracing a menopause-aware workplace, this should be the first step. With leadership support, schools can then start the process of implementing a menopause policy and ideally, appoint a Menopause Ambassador to take the conversation forward. A Menopause Ambassador serves as the first point of contact for any employee who wants to discuss all things menopause – whether they are struggling with symptoms themselves or are wanting to support a colleague or loved one. Having a dedicated Menopause Ambassador is a clear signal that ‘menopause matters’ and that individual wellbeing is at the heart of the workplace.  

Raising awareness across the whole organisation can also be really empowering for all staff. Normalising discussions around menopause at work, whilst at the same time not normalising any suffering. Through ongoing conversations such as these we can start to encourage a more menopause friendly environment– where women feel comfortable talking about how it is affecting them, without any shame or embarrassment, know where to go for advice and support, and others feel able to give that support.      

We have recently trained our very first male Menopause Ambassadors who are now best placed to support their female colleagues, friends and family members. This is a huge step forward in de-stigmatising women’s health at work, so be brave and bold – start the conversation and encourage your school leaders to become a menopause-aware workplace.  

Still Human is a CPD certified provider of both Menopause Ambassador and Menopause Awareness training for all staff. As former teachers with decades of experience, we know how challenging the education sector can be. So let us share our insight and help your school or college retain its wonderful women by supporting them through menopause. If you would like to discuss how we can help your educational setting with improving knowledge and support around menopause, contact the team here.