Menopause affects the careers of middle-aged and elderly women, and the British government has joined hands with companies to promote menopause-friendly workplaces, leaving female talents to cope with the trend of an aging working population.

In recent years, there has been a trend of "Great Resignation" and "quiet resignation", so do you know what "hot resignation" is?

What is Hot Resignation?

"Hot resignation" is an international HR trend, which refers to the phenomenon that thousands of female workers every day have to decide to leave their jobs due to the physical and mental symptoms of menopause and the lack of support from companies.

The Menopause Information Pack for Organizations (MIPO) team is dedicated to removing the stigma of menopause and calling on companies to support the career development of middle- and senior-age women.

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According to the MIPO survey, 1 in 10 menopausal women will eventually have to leave the workforce because the environment does not meet their needs. This is clearly related to the stigma of menopause within the business. On their homepage, they quote a passage from the New York Times that most people think of menopause as hot flashes and night sweats, but that is not the case with the symptoms and transitions caused by this stage of life.

How might menopause affect women in the workplace?

Hot flashes, night sweats, menstrual irregularities, and dry skin and mouth are typical symptoms of menopause, but outside of the general public's awareness, heart palpitations, breast pain, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, or recurrent urinary tract infections are common effects, although rarely mentioned because they are more intimate.

For some women, psychological symptoms such as mood swings, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and even lasting depression, anxiety and panic for a period of time may also be a sign that menopause affects the physical and mental state.

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Many women experience these challenges during their work experience, which seriously affects their job performance and career choices. According to the latest research cited by The Guardian, the UK could lose 14 million working days a year due to menopause. A quarter of women who have experienced menopausal symptoms are considering quitting their jobs, and many of them are at the peak of their careers.

(Gaying in the same scene: night sweats, hot flashes, bone headaches, am I going to menopause?)

To add insult to injury, because menopause is still generally regarded as a stigma or a defect, and because the term menopause gives the impression of poor and unproductive work, they often struggle to speak out about the changes they are facing, and miss the opportunity to seek help.

According to a 2021 survey by The Guardian [1], about one-third of women with symptoms in the UK, Germany, Spain and South Africa all answered that they hid the concerns of menopause in the workplace, with the exception of Italy, which is less severe.

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Why are both the public and private sectors on the alert?

According to a 2021 survey by NHK, 9.4% of Japanese women between the ages of 40 and 50 left the workplace due to menopausal symptoms, and 67.3% considered refusing to be promoted or actually declining such opportunities due to menopausal symptoms. Forty-six percent of women say their work performance is half as bad as they used to be when they are going through menopause. [2]

According to a study by the Institute of Human Resources (CIPD) in the United Kingdom, more than a quarter of working women between the ages of 40 and 60 have experienced menopausal symptoms, and a third of them believe that menopause has a negative impact on them, such as inability to concentrate (79%) and greater psychological stress (68%). [3]

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In fact, the age of 40 to 50 is the peak of career development, when many people enter the management level, are able to execute the business steadily, and develop good leadership skills, become role models for new employees and create new business opportunities.

However, in terms of physiological state and family stage, menopause and time happen to be a period when women are suffering physically and mentally and are encountering challenges. A Japanese study published in the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) shows that the burden of menopausal symptoms does lead to low productivity.

(Read more: Coming to the second half of life: Do women have to eat hormones during menopause?)

Gynecologist Dr. Stephanie Faubion also noted that the study also showed that women with more significant menopausal symptoms tend to be caregivers at home and often suffer from chronic diseases.

This shows that people with fragile family structures and disadvantaged physiological states are also more likely to be forced to give up their careers due to menopausal symptoms, forming a three-sided attack of family, workplace and physical and mental state.

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The challenges of menopause are not only a major challenge for women who suffer from physical and mental symptoms, but also a burden and loss for businesses. A survey by the American Association of Retired Persons found that 9 out of 10 working women believe that physical changes during menopause directly affect job performance.

As a result, U.S. companies will suffer at least US$150 billion (about NT$1 billion) in economic losses every year due to the menopause of their employees. And if 9.4% of women in Japan leave their jobs due to menopausal symptoms, the economic loss will be as high as 420 billion yen (about 94.2 billion Taiwan dollars). [3]

The UK public-private partnership promotes a menopausal-friendly workplace

Thanks to the activism of MPs and the advocacy and action of women's organisations, the UK has led the research and advocacy on the topic of "Menopause and Women's Labor Participation" than many other countries, not only with the government officially issuing a white paper to formulate employment counselling policies and workplace norms, but also publishing a large number of statistical research results and online resources.

For example, the British Menopause Society (BMS), which was established in 2008, the "Menopause & Me" website created by Viatris, a health management company, and the hot resignation topic page set up by the research institute MIPO, all provide an easy-to-use integration platform for women and businesses, and continue to promote research and innovation in this field.

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For example, Carolyn Harris, a member of the Labour Party, has launched an initiative to break taboos, remove stigma, and raise the profile of menopause so that the human resources of the middle and upper age groups can be utilized. She suggested that the state should subsidize hormonal therapy: "Many women are going through menopause, but they are not getting proper treatment. It's 2021, but there's a lack of understanding about this phenomenon, which affects 51% of the population. 」

On the enterprise side, allowing employees to adjust the indoor temperature according to their needs, providing lightweight, loose alternative clothing, providing options for adjusting working hours and work schedules, and creating a safe space for dialogue where employees can express their needs honestly are all friendly gestures that companies can do.

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Alexia Inge, CEO of British beauty store Cult Beauty, said in an interview that supporting female employees through menopause is not only an ethical action, but also a business imperative: "When the country needs people to continue working in middle and later years, we are losing the labor force of this age group [menopausal women]. 」

In 2019, British media outlet Channel 4 also published an internal policy report[4], giving female employees the right to flexibly adjust their commuting time according to their physiological needs, and create a cooler office environment to help menopausal women relieve discomfort, while telecommunications company Vodafone launched a special education course on "Hormonal Health and Life Stages" to let all employees understand the physiological changes during menopause.

How can organizations support menopausal women?

The World Economic Forum has also taken note of the trend of employment among the elderly, and in order to address the labor problems of the new generation, it has proposed several guidelines for the menopausal workplace environment:

1. Strengthen internal policies for the employment of middle-aged and elderly people

This includes improving the working environment, as well as allowing for flexible adjustment of working hours, and even offering WFH (Work from Home) options for women in the menopausal stage to alleviate the discomfort and inconvenience caused by symptoms. To implement this policy, companies can encourage departments to share best practices, transfer expertise, and encourage employees to reflect and provide feedback.

Specific projects include proactive education on menopause, training sessions, and ongoing monitoring of internal surveys on the topic of "Menopause and Women's Health", as well as the latest external research and data.

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2. The overall plan of menopause education

Allow employees to share experiences and resources and provide tips on how to cope with menopause. This could include webinars, book breaks, symptom checklists, information kits, one-on-one conversations with HR departments, or even gynecology staff on-site in the company.

3. Friendly work culture for menopausal women

Employers should promote a friendlier work culture and support employees through life course changes. Dialogue between employees and senior colleagues is also encouraged, so that talking about menopause is no longer taboo or a subject to be ashamed to talk about. This allows people to feel comfortable seeking support and discussing work arrangements and the impact of menopausal symptoms on job performance.

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Menopause is also a way to create a diverse workplace and enhance sustainable talents

The phenomenon of "menopause", which is still unheard of in Taiwan's workplace, is certainly a difficulty and challenge for middle-aged and elderly employment, but it can also become a business opportunity and opportunity. Workers who are also kind to people at different stages of their lives, and the previous corporate strategy of advocating menstruation-friendly can be used as a reference.

In recent decades, many companies have seized the opportunity to make women's physiological products a symbol of female power and self-confidence, successfully build brands, and even further express their support for equal rights, and establish an external image and corporate culture.

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Now, companies can also enhance the value of sustainable talents through "menopause friendliness". Whether it's menstruation or menopause, supporting women through different stages of life requires different strategies and approaches from a variety of perspectives to truly provide a wide range of options for people to balance personal health, family care and career development.

The UK is a global leader in the issue of menopause for women in the workplace, not only with the government publishing a strategy white paper, but also with companies and academia jointly promoting various projects such as the menopausal workforce study and the online menopausal women's resource kit.

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By providing more flexible working arrangements and introducing dedicated menopause policies, these research findings, online resources and corporate attention have brought about positive changes in women's experiences in the workplace.

As the CEO of Cult Beauty put it, "Friendliness to women going through menopause, creating a suitable work environment and corporate culture is not only based on ethical considerations, but also for the sake of talent retention and sustainable development."