BSI launches SME-focused menopause guidance

SMEs urged to take steps to retain women in the workforce on World Menopause Day 2023

18 October 2023

A free guide aimed at encouraging small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) to initiate conversations with employees experiencing menopause, in order to realize economic and social benefits including enhancing workplace productivity, has been released to mark World Menopause Day 2023.

Global menopause productivity losses are estimated to top $150bn a year. BSI’s little book of menstruation, menstrual Health and menopause is specifically aimed at SMEs to help them start a conversation with employees and implement straightforward changes to create a more inclusive and productive environment. It is designed to help unlock positive benefits for individuals, organizations and society by supporting experienced women to remain in the workforce, enabling them to continue to contribute to their organizations and provide mentorship for younger women and male colleagues.

It follows research published by BSI in July identifying that a fifth of women in the UK expect to leave the workforce before official retirement and not necessarily out of personal preference, in a trend that was described as a Second Glass Ceiling. One fifth (21%) of UK women said menopause was a barrier to continuing work, and nearly three quarters (72%) said there should be more support for those experiencing symptoms. More than half (54%) said it would be difficult to raise menopause issues with an employer, and over half would be uncomfortable to do so (52%). 

Importantly, 75% of UK women said they wanted employers to take action to address this. The report made a number of recommendations to do so, including encouraging business leaders to open the dialogue and ask women what they want, as well as ensuring support is available and accessible, whether around menopause or other considerations.

In May, BSI published the free British standard menstruation, menstrual health, and menopause in the workplace – Guide (BS 30416), setting out practical recommendations for workplace adjustments, such as the appointment of workplace menstrual health and menopause advocates. Earlier this month the Welsh Senedd became the first public organization in Wales to adopt the standard.

The little book of menstruation, menstrual health and menopause builds on BSI’s work and the standard, recommending simple and cost-effective adjustments that organizations of any size can implement as a starting point on their journey to creating an inclusive environment in which people and their needs are prioritized. It can be used in isolation or in conjunction with the standard before an organization is able to adopt this in full. It offers recommendations on cost effective alternatives and maps out six practical steps specifically designed to support SMEs, as follows:

  • Tackling the taboo
  • Consider practical aspects of work
  • Develop policy guidance and best practice
  • Foster a supportive workplace culture
  • Question how the work is designed
  • Inclusivity in menstruation, menstrual health and menopause at work

Anne Hayes, Director of Sectors at BSI, said: “According to BSI’s research, a fifth of women expect to retire before official retirement, with 42% expecting this to be due to health or well-being. This Second Glass Ceiling is not only an issue for experienced women but has an impact on organizations and society, as businesses lose out on productive people and mentors to guide younger colleagues. Employers have the potential to be a key resource and vital avenue of support for employees experiencing menopause - but they may not know where to start.

“In recognition of World Menopause Day this guide is available alongside the standard to help advance society’s journey in tackling how menopause is approached in the workplace, by mapping out simple steps specifically aimed at SMEs. All organizations, regardless of their size and structures, can partner with their people to build diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace cultures with the potential to bring enormous benefit to individuals and society.”

- ENDS -

Notes to editor

For more information, or to read the little book of menstruation, menstrual health and menopause please visit our website.

For more information, or to read the report in full, please visit: Lifting the Second Glass Ceiling

For more information the menstruation, menstrual health, and menopause in the workplace standard, please visit: BS 30416