Menopause and the workplace

Think back to a day when you felt tired, anxious or generally a bit low. How did it affect your work?

How would you have felt if you had also experienced frequent memory loss and trouble concentrating?

Or sudden and unpredictable hot flushes?

And what if those symptoms lasted not just for a day, but for years?

By 2025 there will be more than a billion women experiencing menopause in the world – 12% of the entire population.

This is the daily reality of women going through the menopause while working.

What is the menopause?

Menopause is the point at which oestrogen levels decline, and periods stop. Menopausal symptoms are typically experienced for several years, so it’s best described as a ‘transition’ rather than a one-off event.

The menopause is usually experienced between the ages of 45-55, though some can experience it earlier than this, due to ‘premature menopause’ or surgery.

Symptoms can manifest both physically and psychologically, are different for everyone, and for a quarter of women can be severely debilitating.

Of these women, eight in 10 experienced menopause-related symptoms, with half saying symptoms last for one to two years.

What are the symptoms?

In partnership with Opinium, we surveyed 5,012 people who worked while going through menopause in the UK, South Africa, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The most common symptoms are:

hot  flushes  (65%)

night sweats (52%)

disrupted steep (45%)

Three in five women who have experienced symptoms say their work was impacted as a result.

Of those who have been impacted at work, the most common symptoms are:

A general feeling of fatigue (53%)

Broken sleep (46%)

Mood changes (47%)

Increased stress levels (40%)

Temperature fluctuations (42%)

Many feel their symptoms are holding back their careers

Half of those who have experienced menopause symptoms have been concerned about how they affect their performance at work.

Meanwhile, two in five are concerned about how their symptoms impact their progression and almost half (47%) are concerned about how their symptoms affect perceptions of them at work.

Half of women think the menopause is a taboo subject at work

Worryingly, many women do not feel they can talk to their colleagues about their symptoms.

A third of those who have experienced symptoms say they hide them at work, while one in 10 have had to reduce their work hours, and 9% have even considered leaving their job.

of women who experienced menopause symptoms say they have felt too embarrassed to ask for support in the workplace regarding the issue, and 50% think there is a stigma attached to menopause in the workplace.


Most employers are not offering support

said their workplace offered some form of support related to menopause, with this varying across countries. This rises to one in five in Italy and South Africa.

Meanwhile, two thirds of women who are going through or have gone through menopause agreed that there should be more support in the workplace related to menopause.

Just 1in8

… and too many feel they can't talk to their manager about it

Some women experience such severe symptoms that they have to take time off work.

A shocking 42% of women who took time off work because of the menopause never told their managers the reason for their absence.

Just one in four of these women told their manager the real reason every time they were off work.

Our global commitment to women

To ensure that all Vodafone employees can access the help they need, Vodafone has committed to providing support and training globally.

We have rolled out a training and awareness programme to all employees globally, including a toolkit focused on raising understanding of the menopause and providing guidance on how to support employees, colleagues and family members.

This is in addition to existing policies enabling employees to take leave for sickness and medical treatment, opt for flexible working and access support and care through Vodafone’s Employee Assistance programme.

Sharing our people's stories

At Vodafone, we believe that by listening to women and sharing their stories, we can make a real difference to their working lives.

So, this World Menopause Day, we asked our people to share their experiences of going through the menopause at work.

We also asked them how Vodafone's menopause policy and toolkit has helped them navigate their symptoms and work through solutions with their managers.

Jo Cracknell's story

"I didn’t realise that I was going through the menopause until last year, when I started really losing my confidence. I started being emotional and short tempered, which isn’t me. There were lots of things that were happening to me that I couldn’t work out in my own head.

I found Vodafone’s menopause toolkit, which is absolutely brilliant. I had a look at Dr. Wendy Sweet’s online broadcast, and that made me go to my doctor.

There was a lot that went on in my world last year. I would’ve normally coped with things really well, but because of the menopause I didn’t. In March this year it really came to a head, and my doctor just hadn’t got my drugs right. Vodafone told me to take some time out to get my head straight. So I had 4 weeks off.

My line manager was absolutely brilliant. He’s not one for emotion, and I phoned him and cried – and he was amazing. He said, ‘Just take what you need, take your time, keep in touch with me if you need anything, give me a shout.’ There was absolutely no pressure or anything. He had looked at Vodafone's toolkit.

What’s interesting is that you suddenly start talking about it within your friendship groups. Because I was off work, my friends were asking me if I was all right. And slowly, you realise that everyone is going through this – there’s the odd friend that has got away with it really lightly, but actually most of us are all the same.

We hadn’t seen each other for months, and then all of a sudden, we’ve all got fat backsides and double chins! And it’s like, YES!"

I felt so much better afterwards, and so much able to cope with the whole thing. It made me focus on me for a change rather than everything else that was going on.

Sam Kent's  story

"When I first started to experience menopause symptoms, I had no idea what was going on. And I didn’t know where to find any information. I was totally in the dark, and I’d lost my mum, so I didn’t have that avenue to go down.

I went from being this super energetic, active person to being a little old lady that needed to buy clothes with elasticated waists and sensible shoes, in an instant. It took me two years to get my head out of that mindset.

Vodafone’s menopause toolkit is amazing. I gave a copy to my manager. After she read it, I think she understood a lot more about the trials that we go through.

My main goal now is to make sure that every woman knows where they can get help, so nobody feels like I did at that point.”

Kirstin  Parker's story

"As I headed into the peri menopause, I don’t think I realised the extent to which symptoms affected people until I started hearing about women who have had to give up work as a result of things like brain fog and anxiety. Around the time that I started to investigate the various treatment options available, Vodafone issued its new toolkit on menopause.

Not many businesses have this on their agenda, so it's really encouraging to know that the toolkit is there, and that Vodafone is behind it. I’m sure there are varying degrees of knowledge within the business about the impacts of the menopause and it’s good to know there’s a grounding and support within the business and that it’s come from a senior level."

Employers need to step up

There is a gap between what workplaces offer and what people who go though menopause would like to see in place.

Three fifths (60%) said they would like to see their workplace offer some form of support in relation to menopause.

Menopause policy covering time off and flexible working (26%)

Access to menopause clinicians (24%)

Adjustment to the work environment for those going through menopause (22%

The top three things they would like to see offered by workplaces are:

Offering support benefits everyone

Over a third (37%) of those who have been through menopause said they would feel more confident about menopause if they worked for a company that offered support.

A similar proportion (34%) said they would feel more connected to the company.

Meanwhile, three in ten would stay with this type of company (29%) and would recommend it to people they know who are looking for a job (29%).

We can make  a difference

Most women will experience symptoms of menopause at some point in their lives – and it is likely to be when they're at the peak of their career.

If we are to continue creating an equal society, organisations need to provide women with the support they need to continue to participate fully in the global labourmarket.

Together, we can beat the stigma, normalise the menopause, and provide women with the support they need.

That's why Vodafone is calling on organisations of all sizes to provide support and guidance to their employees.