Menopause Policy

Introduction

The menopause is a stage in life that can affect women in many different ways and for varying lengths of time. Chambers seeks to assist members and employees experiencing the menopause and this policy is an initial attempt to do that. It will be reviewed and Chambers welcomes comments and suggestions on it in the meantime.

Fundamentally, Chambers wants to give confidence to women than any difficulties that the menopause causes them at work will be dealt with in a sympathetic and understanding manner in an effort to remove difficulties in the workplace that they might be experiencing because of the menopause. Chambers trains its managers and clerks on what the menopause is and how it might affect members and employees at work.

The Effects of the Menopause

The menopause affects women, trans and intersex people. It usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55, but can also happen earlier or later in life as oestrogen production in the body naturally reduces. Some people may experience early menopause or surgical menopause (following oophorectomy which may be performed alone to remove the ovaries or in addition to a hysterectomy).

A woman is officially in menopause when her periods have stopped for 12 months, but some women will begin to experience perimenopausal symptoms years before that time.

Common symptoms that may be experienced during the perimenopause and menopause include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats – impacting quantity and quality of sleep
  • Migraine/headaches
  • Mood changes
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Heart palpitations
  • Aching joints and muscles
  • Brain fog – including problems with memory and concentration
  • Urinary problems
  • Increases risk of osteoporosis (particularly with surgical menopause)
  • Loss of libido
  • Weight gain
  • Dry skin
  • Thinning hair

While the experience of these symptoms can vary greatly among those experiencing perimenopause and menopause, we understand that working life may be more difficult during this period of time. We would like to foster a culture where members and employees feel comfortable that they can speak sensibly with somebody in Chambers who can understand their experience of the menopause and to discuss and agree practical steps that can be taken to support them.

Who to Speak to

The first point of contact for members should be their Clerk or Senior Clerk. Employees should contact their line manager. Additionally, or as an alternative, Chambers has asked Helen Power in Human Resources to be a specific point of strictly confidential contact for anyone who wants to discuss how the menopause might be causing them problems at work. Members and employees may contact their Senior Clerk, line manager or Helen, whichever they find easiest.

Importantly this is also available to members and employees who, though not undergoing the menopause themselves, are being affected by their partner or relative who is undergoing the menopause.

Members and employees may also contact the Health Assured Confidential Helpline free of charge and completely confidentially on 0800 028 0199, where they can speak to a counsellor and can access structured weekly counselling sessions (up to six sessions are provided free of charge through this service).

Making Adjustments

Chambers anticipates that there may be a need to consider making adjustments to how work is done by the employee or barrister as a result of the menopause, either temporarily or on a longer term or permanent basis. Steps that can be considered may include:

  • Changes to start, break and finish times where possible
  • Alterations to duties or work and case types
  • Location of workspace within Chambers
  • Relaxation of dress code where appropriate
  • Access to cool air, via a fan, window or air conditioning systems

Flexibility is key. The central point is that Chambers is open to discussing measures that will help remove the effects on how work is done that the menopause may bring and flexibility that may enable the barrister or employee to undertake activities that may alleviate symptoms, such as regular exercise, rest and meditation.

Absences

Chambers recognises that the impacts of the menopause may impact wellbeing and attendance. Absences related to the menopause will be separated from other absences when looking at triggers under the staff Sickness Absence Management process. In some circumstances Occupational Health referral may be useful, and in this event an advisor from the Human Resources team will advise and arrange a referral with the consent of the individual.

Chambers will also be supportive where an employee or member needs to attend a medical appointment connected with the menopause during normal working hours, where these cannot be arranged otherwise.

Further sources of guidance

We hope these initial practical steps are helpful.  We also set out below links to resources that may be helpful, including some which offer advice on available treatment and steps you can take to alleviate symptoms:

https://www.acas.org.uk/menopause-at-work

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/

https://www.wellbeingatthebar.org.uk/problems/menopause-barristers/

https://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/womens-health/menopause

 

Confidentiality

We would like to underscore the fact that for those affected by the menopause, any issues and problems will be dealt with in the strictest confidence.

If a member or employee wants information about their menopause symptoms to be shared, e.g. if it helps to enable agreed adjustments, we will seek to agree with you what information you are comfortable to have shared, with whom and for what purpose.

Comments and Suggestions

If you would like to share any thoughts or suggestions on how this policy might be improved, please contact Kevin McNerney (Equality and Diversity Officer) or Helen Power (Head of HR).