Oxford Brookes contributes to national guide on menopause in the workplace

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A new guide to menstruation and menopause in the workplace has been developed by the British Standards Institute (BSI) with the help of academics at Oxford Brookes University.

The British Standards Institute approached Oxford Brookes after seeing the university’s wide-ranging initiatives to support staff who are experiencing menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms.

The BSI is the UK’s national standards body, working to develop technical standards for a range of products and services. As well as Oxford Brookes University, the University of St Andrews, the University of Glasgow and the University of Sheffield were involved in developing the guide. 

Nele Zgavc, Lead Standards Development Manager for Healthcare and Security at the BSI, said: “BSI hopes that the new British Standard on menstrual and menopausal health in the workplace will kickstart a change in cultures across UK businesses. As the standard has the potential to impact on many working lives, it has been key to receive input from a wide range of stakeholders, including academics working in this area.”

The aim of the guide is to allow organisations to see how they can benefit from the opportunities and ideas presented in the guidance. Nele said: “Overall it is about creating a better work environment that supports individuals in their journey from menstruation to menopause. The standard can play an initial part by showing ideas and good practices that help employers achieve this positive outcome.”

There has been a growing awareness recently of the challenges associated with menopause, from lack of sleep to mental health issues. Providing the appropriate support helps those struggling with these problems stay in their jobs and handle the pressures of day-to-day life. 

Last year the problems faced by people experiencing menopause at work were highlighted in a report by the Fawcett Society. This states that one in 10 women leave their jobs due to menopausal symptoms and recommends that employers have menopause action plans.  

Maxine Fletcher is Head of Psychology, Health and Professional Development at Oxford Brookes University, and heads the University’s Athena Swan Menopause Activity Sub-Group. Athena Swan works to support and transform gender equality in higher education.  

Maxine said: “We’ve spent some time thinking about ways we can make our organisation a friendly and supportive place for those going through the menopause. 

“We were delighted to be approached by the BSI and to share our experiences so they can benefit other organisations.”

Oxford Brookes University has a workforce where 60% of the employees identify as women and 52% are aged over 45. 

Oxford Brookes University will be hosting a virtual and in-person Menopause in the Workplace Conference on Thursday 20 April. Speakers will include Professor Jo Brewis from the Open University, Nina Kuypers, the founder and chair of Black Women in Menopause, and Jackie Lynch, founder of Well Well Well Nutrition Clinic and host of the Happy Menopause Diet and Lifestyle Podcast. Nele Zgavc from the BSI will be joining virtually to talk about the new BSI guide and take questions from the audience.

Other events will include online workshops and webinars, including a session with Henpicked, an organisation that supports employers to be more menopause friendly. 

Regular events at Oxford Brookes include a menopause café. The virtual café aims to provide a respectful, confidential space for people to discuss anything to do with menopause. The university also has Menopause Talk Point, a Google Chat forum offering colleagues a place to share information, ask questions and keep up-to-date with developments in workplace practices.

For more menopause-related information and resources see the Oxford Brookes University Good Practice Guidelines.