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Trust issues: it’s time for our industry to stand up and become a menopause ally

By Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive, the Retail Trust Retail job vacancies reached an all-time high this summer, while research carried out by WorkL for the Retail… View Article

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Trust issues: it’s time for our industry to stand up and become a menopause ally

By Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive, the Retail Trust

Retail job vacancies reached an all-time high this summer, while research carried out by WorkL for the Retail Trust has found that retail employees have the lowest levels of wellbeing compared to people working in technology, hospitality, travel and leisure.

And it was with this in mind that the Retail Trust hosted a Leaders’ Summit for over 100 HR leaders this month, focused on staff wellbeing, attraction and retention.

Creating workplace cultures where every employee feels listened to, supported and valued is not only the right thing to do, but will lead to better employee morale and engagement and a healthier workforce, with fewer sick days, higher staff retention rates and wider talent attraction.

The future success of the retail industry rests so heavily on employees’ ongoing hope, health and happiness that we invited a range of industry leaders and experts to share how employers can support mental health, ensure inclusivity and build rewarding careers. You will be able to view many of these discussions online soon.

But when we consider mental health and inclusivity at work, our event also highlighted one area that is still too often overlooked, and that’s the menopause. 76% of menopausal women feel their symptoms cause problems in the workplace, according to The Menopause Survey 2018, while nearly a million women in the UK surveyed by BUPA and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development say they have quit their job as a result.

Yet, menopausal women are the UK’s fastest growing work demographic and also make up a large proportion of the British retail sector, so as an industry we have a responsibility to step up and support women experiencing perimenopause and menopause.

TV personality Davina McCall is a menopause trailblazer following her Channel 4 documentary, Sex, Myths and The Menopause, so we were thrilled when she agreed to speak at our Leaders’ Summit to outline what retail employers should be doing. And she was very clear: we need to ‘reframe the way that the world perceives menopausal women’.

Many menopausal women are at the peak of their careers, with decades of experience and knowledge. Despite this, far too many fear mentioning they are menopausal to colleagues or managers because of the perceived negative connotations and that impact it could have on their careers.

The current lack of support for menopausal women in the workplace is partly responsible, and  there are some key adjustments retailers should be making to ensure that these employees feel supported, including treating menopause-related performance issues the same as any other type of health-related performance issue, with reasonable adjustments to support women through the worst of their symptoms, such as time off for medical appointments or changes to a rota when symptoms are particularly severe, as well as encouragement to speak openly about their needs.

But, as Davina pointed out last week, it’s important the menopause is no longer a mystery to any of us, and one of the main things she called for from employers was more access to professionals who can give the right advice. This is not a woman-only issue and, as an industry, we have a duty to ensure that we do what we can to meet the needs of women who are affected, but to also create more open and supportive workplace cultures to normalise what is a very normal part of life. This means every one of us should understand and talk about the menopause at work.

So, the message from the Retail Trust’s Leader’s Summit is clear: retailers need to do what they can to support their employees’ health and wellbeing to create a more engaged and productive workforce. And creating an open and supportive culture around the menopause is one fantastic way of achieving this.

The Retail Trust provides wellbeing services which includes supporting women and their partners who are struggling with the emotional impact of the menopause. Contact the Retail Trust’s wellbeing helpline on 0808 801 0808.

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