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As an employer, what do I need to know about menopause and PPE?

Menopause in the Workplace

In 2022, women are making up nearly 48% of the workforce in the United Kingdom. That’s probably not a surprising statistic, but did you know that 1 in 3 of those workers is experiencing menopausal symptoms, which can last up to 12 years!? Did you also know that what you wear can make these menopausal symptoms worse? Or, that when it comes to PPE, there have been innovative changes to address some of the challenging symptoms experienced during menopause?

 

8 out of 10 women will have noticeable symptoms during menopause, and nearly half of these women will find these symptoms hard to deal with. Here are just a few common symptoms that may affect women in the workplace.

 

  • Hot flushes & palpitations
  • Increased sweating
  • Bloating and swelling
  • Heavy bleeding and pain
  • Urinary problems
  • Fatigue
  • Joint aches
  • Anxiety and depression

 

While there are many more symptoms, it’s essential to recognise the ones that can potentially have the most considerable impact while wearing PPE. So let’s talk about why and how employers should handle menopause in the workplace.

In which industries are menopausal employees most affected by PPE?

In many areas of work where PPE is often worn, such as healthcare, women make up over 78% of the workforce. Sectors in which a small proportion of jobs held by women, who would typically wear PPE, include

 

  • construction (14%)
  • mining and quarrying (17%)
  • and transportation and storage (23%)

 

However, it is worth noting that females coming into these industries are rising. For example, according to Go Construct, more than one-third (37%) of new entrants into the construction industry are women coming from higher education.

Can PPE have an effect on women going through menopause?

Employers must recognise menopause in the workplace and ensure a strategy is in place to support employees during this time. One of the ways is by supplying PPE that is comfortable to the wearer. For instance, classic PPE might be less breathable or stretchy, bulkier, and sometimes even shaped for the male torso, all of which can increase the physical symptoms of menopause. 

 

Workers struggling with uncomfortable symptoms could find themselves distracted if inappropriate PPE exacerbates their discomfort, which can lead to potential health & safety risks to the employee, as well as frustration and immense discomfort. Therefore, risk assessments in the workplace should consider the specific needs of menopausal employees to ensure the working environment will not worsen their symptoms.

What can employers do to help their workforce?

  1. Offer menopausal workwear and PPE for the specific employee
  2. Provide support and training regarding menopause at work
  3. Create an open environment to have discussions
  4. Work with suppliers who understand these requirements and that can offer products to help you cater to your team.

 

Employers can ensure that their employees remain comfortable and safe by providing PPE specifically designed for women. Your employers’ strategy for workplace wellness should include a menopausal awareness toolkit including resources for employers and managers to assist with menopause awareness. This toolkit should include workwear options for employees that reduces the uncomfortable symptoms experienced wherever possible. For instance, stretchable and breathable material with split hems, wickable materials next to the body (technical fabrics which draw moisture away from the body), cooling, layerable clothing with ventilation, stretchable waistbands, and materials in trousers will all help.

What does Employment law say about menopause in the workplace?

Under the Equality Act 2010, menopause discrimination is covered under three protected characteristics: age, sex, and disability discrimination. In addition, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 provides safe working, which extends to the working conditions when experiencing menopausal symptoms. 

 

It’s noteworthy to mention that research has found that the average age of menopause, and its symptoms, can vary among women of different ethnic backgrounds and groups. Culturally, it is also essential for employers to provide modesty workwear for employees where required, ensuring the entire workforce feels comfortable.

 

Employers need to prevent workplace discrimination and make adjustments to ensure employees can work safely through menopause. By being proactive and fostering safer and fairer workplaces for those working through menopause, employers are more likely to retain the talents and skills of experienced workers and benefit from increased morale and wellbeing among staff.

How is Stronghold Global helping you support menopausal employees?

At Stronghold Global, we’ve been raising awareness about the comfort and safety of all staff in the workplace. 

 

Hi-Vis polo shirts with Coolviz Ultra™ Polyester combines safety and comfort. The hydrophobic fabric funnels moisture away from the body and an anti-microbial finish to manage odour and bacterial build-up. These properties ensure employee comfort in warmer environments or when experiencing menopausal symptoms.

 

Our Class 2 women’s stretch work trouser includes an elasticated waistband with an adjustable belt providing protection, support, and comfort when employees are experiencing swelling and bloating. Our modesty workwear provides comfort during menopause, too, while providing extra body and sleeve length and appropriate design for BAME women.

 

Our range for women includes many different types of layerable, stretchable, breathable clothing for various industry sectors, including medical workwear and medical PPE. As most of these products are part of a speciality range, it’s best to get in contact with us so we can understand your individual needs and offer specific advice and support. All you need to do is give us a call on 0845 208 4500 or email [email protected] and we can have a discussion to find the perfect solution for you!

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