After increased contact from the workforce around the effects of menopause on working life, Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) set up a working group, involving both management and trade union representatives. Through the delivery of practical outputs, such as toolkits, support sessions and a conference, the trust has increased awareness of the issue, and improved staff wellbeing.
NUH has a workforce of over 17,000, 76 per cent of whom are female. Trade unions and departments within the trust were reporting increased contact from staff about menopause affecting their work life, and existing menopause awareness sessions were seeing increased demand. The chief people officer from the trust asked the head of staff wellbeing to co-ordinate a piece of work, in partnership, to meet this increased interest and need.
To tackle the issue, NUH started a working group which included representatives from the HR department, occupational health and trade unions (UNISON, Unite and Royal College of Midwives). The group also worked with Henpicked, an online organisation specialising in the effects of menopause in the workplace. Meeting monthly, the group discussed three key work areas.
- Staff menopause policy and support toolkits for staff and managers.
- Peer support sessions.
- Awareness training for colleagues and managers.
The goal of the project was to break the stigma of menopause, equip staff and managers to have constructive conversations and enable staff experiencing the effects of menopause in the workplace to access the support they needed.
The group undertook several actions:
- A review of staff demographics.
- Analysis of sickness and anecdotal data from occupational health and trade unions.
- A review of a range of external menopause policies to find best practice.
- Utilised the expertise of Henpicked.
- Collated the working group’s personal experiences of menopause in the workplace.
The project faced many challenges, not least the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant that they had to adapt to new technology to meet virtually. To move away from the perception of this being a women’s issue, male colleagues were brought onto the working group to be advocates for the work. Policy writing and approval processes were lengthy, so to enable the project to get moving quickly, toolkits and guidelines were used in a soft launch.
The role of partnership working
NUH has a long history of partnership working. The trust ensured that representatives from all parties were integral to the working group and involved from its inception, and that there was a focus on communication, transparency, and equal recognition of all partner’s contributions. The work was regularly shared through other stakeholder groups, such as the staff wellbeing steering group and human resources working group, so that all stakeholders were kept in the loop. Trade unions have consistently referenced the work as an example of genuine and successful partnership working.
Results and benefits
The project has so far achieved several practical outputs.
- Publication of a comprehensive policy with user friendly toolkits, available to all staff.
- Twenty menopause advocates trained within the organisation, comprising a variety of ages and genders.
- A month-long programme of menopause awareness, which included gynaecologist led sessions, as well as eat well for menopause and mindfulness for menopause sessions.
- Menopause conference held in October 2020.
- Facilitation of monthly menopause peer support sessions.
- New advocates delivering sessions on topics such as pelvic and bone health.
- Improved awareness of the effect of the menopause throughout the organisation.
The work has reached more than 300 staff around the trust so far, and as it continues and develops, it is hoped that the project will improve wellbeing, leading to improved sickness absence, recruitment and retention.
Key learnings from the project
- The importance of raising awareness of the issue amongst the workforce, and relaying that although this is something that only affects some people directly, it can affect many more indirectly, hence it is everyone’s responsibility to act upon.
- Make sure that the work is partnership led with active involvement from all parties from the outset.
- Seek out best practice from fellow trusts and experts in the field, such as Henpicked.
For further information on the project contact Jenny Good, Senior Staff Wellbeing Officer, NUH - firstname.lastname@example.org