The topic of women’s health has risen up the national agenda in recent years, and with Adult Social Care Workforce Data reporting that 81.7% of adult social services jobs are being carried out by women, the care and support sector needs to address the challenges being faced by women in such roles. One health issue that remains taboo is the menopause, which could be key to colleague retention and output within the industry, as Claire Leake, people director at National Care Group – a leading provider of adult social care, discusses.
The menopause typically occurs in women aged between 45 and 55, with perimenopausal symptoms affecting women from their mid-30s and occasionally even younger. Despite the menopause impacting the lives of more than three-quarters of adult social care workers, employers in this sector can do far more to support those going through it.
Symptoms experienced are individual but can include hot flushes, low moods and anxiety, head fog and forgetfulness, headaches, and muscle aches, in addition to many more. In the workplace, we need to not only acknowledge that women are experiencing these symptoms, often for many years but take action to ensure they can continue to do the roles they love comfortably.
At National Care Group, we’re taking a multichannel approach to improve education, enhance flexibility, and prioritise accessibility, in a bid to support our colleagues.
Educating for all
Relegated to the sidelines, the menopause forms only a mere mention in the national school age curriculum. Improving education for everyone in a business, regardless of age, gender, or other demographic, will break down the barriers that often make people feel uncomfortable discussing it.
We’ve introduced regular webinar sessions that are open to all, from the executive team to our support workers, and offer a space to learn about the menopause, how to spot any symptoms and how to support colleagues who are experiencing it. We’ve found that having an open discussion, where people can ask questions without judgment, has been pivotal in removing the taboo. Having our male colleagues as part of these discussions has been key to ensuring everyone in the business is educated and not creating a divide between male and female issues.
Accessibility as a priority
Where education lays the foundations for improved awareness across the business, accessibility is an important next step. In 2021 we introduced our MenoHub, which provides dedicated tools and guidance to colleagues either going through or supporting a colleague, friend or family member with the menopause. By creating one central place for support, our colleagues can access the information whenever they need to.
In addition to the MenoHub, we have committed to reimbursing the cost of our colleagues’ hormone replacement therapy (HRT) prescriptions. We believe that cost shouldn’t be a factor in accessing medication that can greatly improve the quality of life of a large proportion of our team. This has further increased in importance as we endure the cost-of-living crisis, and with many people faced with difficult financial decisions, we’re hoping to remove this barrier and support our colleagues by accessing the care they need.
Flexibility at the forefront
Instigating actionable change is what sets businesses apart when it comes to improving the working lives of those going through the menopause.
Adult social care isn’t a 9-5 industry and employers need to recognise the added challenges that come with experiencing symptoms of the menopause whilst at work. Since Covid-19, PPE has become imperative to use in our support services, but this has been particularly difficult for some of our colleagues who have hot flushes. We’ve integrated flexible practices across our services, including additional breaks in safe spaces to remove PPE. We’ve also worked with colleagues to alter their rota patterns in line with any symptom patterns they experience throughout the day.
Importantly, we’ve trained our managers on spotting the symptoms so that they can encourage others to take breaks and feel comfortable discussing any flexible changes they might need to implement to improve their working day.
Overall, we’ve found that including everyone in the discussion surrounding the menopause has ensured that across the entire business there is awareness, better support, and a sense of openness on the topic. While starting the conversation is hugely important, making sure those conversations lead to action is the key part. In the adult social care sector, the workforce is predominately females, with an average age of 47.5 and if we want to retain the talent that we have, we can no longer ignore an issue that is affecting so many.
For more information on the services National Care Group provides, visit https://nationalcaregroup.com/.