Learning consultant at Adaptis Charlotte Burton-Baker looks at how businesses should be prepared to meet the needs of the older workforce, especially when it comes to women
A higher life expectancy, lower birth rates, an increasing retirement age and lack of retirement funds, means the workforce is getting older, rapidly.
Older employees bring a wealth of experience, loyalty and reliability to an organisation, but employers must recognise that these employees have different needs to the generations below them.
It has become a priority for employers to support the needs of their older employees, ensuring their wellbeing, productivity and value to the organisation.
Women in particular are remaining in the workforce far longer than ever before.
Focus on women
Twenty years ago, less than 50% of women aged 50 – 64 were working. Today, around 70% of women in this age group are still in work.
The Bureau of Labour Statistics predicts by 2024 the workforce will be made up of twice as many women aged over 55 than women aged between 16 and 24.
In today’s workforce, we are beginning to see up to five generations of employees working together.
Following the emphasis for gender balance, there has been an upsurge in awareness and policies to support women through key stages of their lives such as pregnancy and motherhood, enabling them to work in a way that better suits their needs.
Menopause, on the other hand, remains neglected and often a taboo topic in the workplace.
Costs of menopause
A report by the Government Equalities Office shows absenteeism from the menopause is generating an annual cost of more than £7million, a cost which would be significantly reduced through improved education and understanding amongst employers.
Considering the negative impacts which the menopause can have for both women in the workplace and the organisation, as an employer it is essential to start taking the menopause seriously.
A positive first step in tackling this in the workplace is to create an open and common language around the menopause and its impact on women.
Talk and training
Facilitating informal conversations around changes in health and more specifically the menopause is a good place for managers to start.
Another key initiative in supporting women through menopause at work is formal training for managers.
Training can help managers, who may otherwise feel uncomfortable discussing this ‘taboo’ topic, learn how to approach talking to women about their needs in a considerate and effective manner.
Finally, it is important to consider that each case should be assessed on its own merit.
Women have very different experiences of the menopause and will require different support and adjustments based on this.
Therefore, having a standard set of ‘menopause rules’ will not be especially useful.
This highlights the importance of being able to have these open conversations around the menopause to get feedback and find out what is going to help each individual employee.
Charlotte Burton-Baker has also written on how to motivate staff through self-esteem.