The NHS Black Country Integrated Care Board has launched its new menopause policy to help improve the health and wellbeing for staff.

The menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 but can also occur in younger women. The perimenopause is the time before the menopause when hormone levels start to decline and symptoms start.

Perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms can last many years and even decades for some women. These symptoms can include hot flushes, anxiety, insomnia, problems with concentration and memory, fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pains, urinary symptoms and low mood. For many women, these are debilitating symptoms that adversely affect their daily life, work, relationships, and their future health.

The new ICB menopause policy has been written to provide support and guidance to staff who maybe experiencing this change and give managers tools to provide support to those members of staff. Its aim is to ensure staff feel confident enough to raise issues about their symptoms and ask for adjustments at work, ensure all staff know and understand what the menopause is and how they can and should be supported where required.

The policy was officially launched on World Menopause Day (Wednesday 18 October), and a special Menopause Café was held for staff at the Wolverhampton Civic Centre to mark the occasion.

The Menopause Café, which was led by the ICB’s Women’s Health Focus Group, gave colleagues the chance to ask questions about the new policy and have conversations about menopause symptoms and the help and support available.

Anita Patel is Senior HR and Organisational Development Business Partner at the ICB and is also a member of the Women’s Health Focus Group. She said: “We host monthly Menopause Café’s where staff are invited to come together for a coffee and a chat. They are open to all members of staff, not just those going through menopause, and offer the benefits of a support network for a wide range of issues. It’s a safe space for anyone who is affected by menopause to have a conversation, ask questions and learn for themselves what it means to be an older woman in and out of the workplace.

“It was great to see so many of our colleagues join us at our recent Café for the launch of the menopause policy on World Menopause Day. Menopause isn’t just an issue that affects women, it can indirectly affect other people such as spouses, family members and friends, and we all have a responsibility to help and support those experiencing symptoms.”

The Women’s Health Focus Group has also implemented a buddy system at the ICB, which consists of 14 buddies who each have their own experience and offer confidential support on certain health conditions including menopause, breast cancer, infertility, pregnancy, fibromyalgia, miscarriage and depression.

Shajeda Ahmed, Chief People Officer for NHS Black Country, said: “World Menopause Day marks a year since we started our mission to become a menopause friendly organisation, so it felt fitting to launch our new menopause policy.

“We know that the menopause can be a really difficult time for women, both in terms of physical symptoms but also the mental and emotional impact. That’s why reassuring and listening to staff so that work becomes a place of support and safety, and conversations about the menopause are actively encouraged, is vital.

“By creating a dedicated menopause policy, our aim is to reduce the stigma and taboo around the menopause and to make our workplace a much more open, inclusive, and supportive place to work. We want colleagues to know it is okay to talk about menopause, that we are listening, and we do care about supporting staff.”

Earlier this year, the ICB also signed the Menopause Workplace Pledge to show its commitment to making the organisation a supportive and understanding place for colleagues who are going through or are affected by the menopause.

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