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The Great-West Life Assurance Company, London Life Insurance Company and The Canada Life Assurance Company have become one company – The Canada Life Assurance Company. Discover the new Canada Life

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Supporting employees with menopause in the workplace

Key takeaways

What is menopause?

A person is said to have entered menopause when they’ve gone 12 months since their last period. This can happen with age, but can also happen if a person has had their ovaries removed.

There are 3 stages of menopause:

  • Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause, lasting anywhere from 6-8 years and characterized by fluctuating hormone levels, menopausal symptoms and/or irregular periods.
  • Menopause is often defined as the point in time when menstrual periods have stopped for 12 consecutive months.
  • Post-menopause is the period following menopause and lasting for the rest of a woman’s life. For most women, menopausal symptoms subside within a few years of menopause, for others these symptoms can persist for decades.

These symptoms can sometimes make work difficult or uncomfortable. Many people feel shame or embarrassment and suffer silently because menopause isn’t a life stage people are taught to enter with pride. This can get in the way of a person rising to a peak in their career and may even force them to leave.

Knowing more about the experience can influence how you respond to these employees.

Who is affected by menopause?

In Canada, the average age of menopause is 51 | PDF 259.72kBOpens a new website in a new window with most women reaching menopause between 45 and 55.

By 2025, more than 5 million Canadians will be perimenopausal | PDF 3.83MBOpens a new website in a new window, and many of them in the workforce. This can impact not only the women experiencing menopause, but also their families and places of work as well.

What are the symptoms?

Every menopause experience is unique; 25% of women will experience severe symptoms, while others are completely symptom-free.

With that said, 3 in 4 women experience menopause symptoms that interfere with daily life.

There are numerous symptoms that can negatively impact a person’s physical and mental health as they move through perimenopause to post-menopause, including:

  • Hot flashes
  • Cognitive changes such as memory problems, difficulty concentrating and brain fog
  • Feeling tired or having low energy
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Bladder control difficulties
  • Changes to skin and hair, including hair loss
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headaches and migraines that are worse than usual

Prevention and treatment

Hormone Therapy (HT) is widely used to treat persistent, disruptive menopausal symptoms.

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding HT, but the current research suggests that it is safe to use to treat moderate-severe symptoms especially when used within the first 10 years of menopause onset.

How does menopause impact women at work?

According to a report from the Menopause Foundation of CanadaOpens a new website in a new window:

  • 32% of working women say their menopause symptoms negatively impacted their performance at work.
  • 24% say they hid their symptoms at work.
  • 67% would not feel comfortable speaking to their supervisor or to someone in HR about what they were experiencing.
  • 48% would be too embarrassed to ask for help at work.

In more serious cases, 10% of women will stop working because their symptoms are debilitating.

How does menopause impact employers?

Perimenopause directly impacts many Canadians, and the symptoms can be challenging to manage at work.

Menopause costs employers $273M annually in lost productivity, and there are an estimated 540,000 lost days of work due to menopause symptom management.

It can feel scary for employees to speak out and ask for accommodation. However, you don’t have to lose talented members of your workforce or let them struggle silently.

How to support menopausal women in the workplace

You can support your employees through their menopausal years with open communication, flexible work policies and a benefit plan that helps them manage their specific health concerns.

Offer a benefits plan

Offering a workplace benefits plan can help menopausal employees cover the cost of medications and other treatments that can help with symptoms – but it can do so much more.

You can also offer support by providing:

  • Access to an employee assistance program (EAP) with programs for smoking cessation, physical activity and stress management counselling.
  • A health plan that provides access to advice from a dietician and a drug plan that covers hormone therapy medications.
  • A health care spending account or wellness account that offers coverage flexibility for individual needs.
  • Access to a virtual health care service like Consult + to answer non-urgent medical concerns, provide advice and write prescriptions without having to leave home or work. Learn more about our virtual health offering by speaking with your Canada Life representative.
  • Access to Teladoc Medical Experts. Explore how our partnership and product offering with Teladoc Medical Experts can support the unique needs of women with this Women’s Health Guide | PDF 9 MBOpens a new website in a new window. To learn more or to add Teladoc to your plan, speak with your Canada Life representative.

Create a flexible workplace

Offering flexibility in how and when your employees work can help increase comfort levels and productivity.

If possible, you can offer work-from-home options so that employees can feel more comfortable with their own washroom facilities and thermostat, access to cold drinking water, and a change of clothes whenever needed. They can also open windows, which may not be an option in an environment like an office.

You could also arrange flexible hours, such as earlier start times or compressed hours, to work around the effects of poor sleep or make time for extra medical appointments.

You could also:

  • Make information on the menopause transition available on your intranet.
  • Create policies, programs and prevention strategies to support workplace mental healthOpens a new website in a new window and psychological safety for everyone in the organization.
  • Offer uniforms that are comfortable and/or customizable for different body temperatures.
  • Design your workspace to accommodate the need to have a desk fan, or be close to a window that opens.

What’s next?

  • Consider asking your employee, “What can we do to support you so you can bring your best?”
  • Discover how Canada Life can help you support employees with menopause as well as other health conditions.

The information provided is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the date of publication, but rules and interpretations may change.

This information is general in nature, and is intended for informational purposes only. For specific situations you should consult the appropriate legal, accounting or tax advisor.

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