Helping Hands

Birmingham charity leads the way with new approach for an issue that affects thousands

Recognising the need to deal with an issue that “is a fact of life and affects every woman but is frequently regarded as a taboo subject” has led to a new approach being introduced by a Birmingham charity to support its staff.

Services For Education is amongst the first employers in the UK to introduce a menopause policy to raise awareness around this issue and promote a positive culture of support. The new policy came into effect last month (September 1, 2021). Now, the charity – which brings music and learning to life and supports thousands of children and adults in Birmingham and employs more than 200 – is hoping that other employers in Birmingham and the West Midlands will follow suit.

“The menopause policy is designed to assist our staff as they go through this period in their life – as well as demonstrate how we expect managers to behave in response to the typical signs and symptoms of those who may be experiencing difficulties during the menopause,” said Sharon Bell, Chief Executive of Services For Education.

“We need to remove the stigma of speaking out about an issue that is a fact of life and affects every woman but is frequently regarded as a taboo subject but which can have a significant impact on our colleagues,” said Sharon.

Recent research in the UK found that 63% of menopausal women say their working life has been negatively affected by their symptoms, with 34% developing depression and anxiety, and 29% significantly losing self-confidence at work. Eleven percent relinquished the opportunity of promotion whilst eight percent of those interviewed said their symptoms played a key part in their decision to resign from their position.

ONS statistics published in January 2020 indicate that nearly 73% of women are in employment in the UK, and of those, almost 4.5 million are 50-64 years old – the fastest growing economically active group.  Greater numbers of females are also working later in life due to a raft of reasons including the deferment of the State pension retirement age, increased life expectancy and families where children remain dependent on their parents for longer. However, the research indicates that the UK could be losing 14 million workdays a year related to the menopause.

Lindsay Allen, the charity’s HR Director, said that nearly 60% of staff at Services For Education are female.

“There is both a moral imperative for supporting them and a strong business case. At this time of their lives, many women are at the peak of their careers and have a considerable amount to offer. Supporting colleagues as they go through this normal and natural part of their lives in ways that ensure they continue to feel valued and able to contribute is vital.

“Our new approach has been developed in conjunction with the business so it can be practical and meaningful for colleagues. It’s been a pleasure to work closely with Helen Brookes, our Head of Whole Class Instrument Teaching in the development of the new approach,” said Lindsay.

“We will be monitoring the policy carefully to assess its impact and effectiveness. We would be happy to share our experience with other employers in Birmingham and the West Midlands and would welcome approaches from those who have implemented similar policies. This is new territory for many employers, and it would be good to learn together,” said Lindsay.

 

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