Anne O’Leary of Vodafone is smiling into the camera against a blurred background. She is wearing a red dress.
Anne O’Leary. Image: Vodafone

Does your workplace need a menopause policy?

20 Apr 2021

Vodafone Ireland CEO Anne O’Leary discusses the company’s new menopause policy and why it’s an important topic to talk about.

As well as more flexible working models, employee health and wellbeing are quickly becoming priorities for businesses.

Last month, New Zealand’s parliament approved legislation giving people who have a miscarriage three days of paid leave. And according to Sims IVF director, Damien O’Dowd, fertility benefits are something jobseekers are starting to keep an eye out for in potential employers.

Vodafone recently made its own commitment that it hopes will benefit the wellbeing of its women. The company said it would support employees as they go through menopause, which it believes currently affects 15pc of its global workforce.

Its new policy addresses some of the challenges that were highlighted in a survey the company conducted, which asked 5,012 people who had experienced menopause while at work to share their thoughts.

Anne O’Leary, CEO of Vodafone Ireland, spoke to us about the survey findings and what the company’s new menopause policy will involve.

‘Menopause is still a taboo subject and is rarely talked about in wider conversations about employee health and wellbeing’

Why is supporting employees through the menopause important to Vodafone?

To ensure that all Vodafone employees feel comfortable seeking support, Vodafone’s menopause commitment will introduce a balance of support and assistance, training and awareness to all employees.

Typically, menopause affects women between the ages of 45 and 55 and we want to be able to support our people so they can reach their full career potential.

Is this an area that is neglected by wellbeing programmes in general, do you think?

Menopause is still a taboo subject and is rarely talked about in wider conversations about employee health and wellbeing.

It’s clear from the independent research Vodafone conducted with Opinium, which surveyed over 5,000 people across five countries aged 18-plus, that menopause has had a huge impact on both their personal and professional lives.

Nearly two-thirds of women who experienced menopause symptoms said it has impacted them at work and a third of those who had symptoms said they hid this at work. Half of those surveyed felt there is a stigma around talking about menopause, which is something we are seeking to combat through education and awareness training for all staff.

How exactly will the new menopause policy help?

Vodafone has announced a global commitment to ensure employees are supported through menopause to create a broader culture of inclusion across the business.

We will roll out a training and awareness programme to all employees globally, including a toolkit focused on raising understanding of menopause and providing guidance on how to support employees, colleagues and family members.

Here in Ireland, Vodafone employees will be able to avail of leave for sickness and medical treatment, flexible working hours and additional care through Vodafone’s employee assistance programme.

Are there any other things you think wellbeing programmes and initiatives are missing?

Inclusive polices and strategies need to be the foundation on which wellbeing and support programmes are built. We need to ensure we are supporting all employees through every life stage and creating an environment in which they can thrive. Delivering an inclusive and meaningful wellbeing programme takes real, sustained commitment and investment, passion and understanding.

We have developed and introduced a series of pioneering programmes in recent years, including progressive flexible working policies, maternity and parental leave that support families to share caring responsibilities in the home, ReConnect to attract talented women back to the workplace and a groundbreaking domestic violence and abuse policy.

Why would you advise other employers that are looking to support staff with a menopause policy?

From the research conducted with Opinium, it is clear there is a need for more support in the workplace for those going through menopause. Just under half of those who experienced menopausal symptoms said they felt too embarrassed to ask for support in the workplace and two-thirds agreed there should be more workplace support for people going through menopause.

By 2025, there will be over 1bn women experiencing menopause worldwide, which will be 12pc of the entire population. It’s time for employers to show an understanding of menopause and the impact it can have on employees’ lives.

There are various symptoms that can be experienced through menopause, including hot flushes, fatigue, memory lapses, anxiety, depression and heart palpitations. It is important employees do not suffer in silence and that they feel supported by their organisation.

What advice would you give in terms of showing support?

I think it is important to recognise the impact that health and wellness can have on a person’s life and their ability to thrive at work. Companies should strive for a more inclusive culture that supports employees through each stage of their lives.

With menopause impacting people for a significant period of their working life, it’s important to provide environmental supports and openly talk about menopause in the workplace through employee training programmes. The first step is to talk to your employees, find out where they feel they need support and how you can help.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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