For many years, menopause has been taboo in the workplace. However, the tide is changing—for the better—with the Australian government’s latest inquiry a positive step towards change.
Last month, the Senate referred an inquiry into matters relating to menopause and perimenopause to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, with the report due in September next year. Whilst investigating a broad range of references, it’s encouraging to see the inquiry focus on workplace-related issues—including reduced participation, awareness amongst employers, and the availability of support.
Here at Workday, we applaud the government’s focus on menopause and move to make a real difference in women’s lives. Menopause affects around 20% of the global workforce at any time and can be an isolating experience impacting not only personal but professional life.
Up to a quarter of menopausal women experience debilitating symptoms, leading to long-term absences from work or forcing them into early retirement. Earlier this year, the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) increased its estimate of the cost of menopause to more than $15 billion per year in lost earnings and superannuation. This is simply not acceptable. Workplaces have the chance to prevent this ‘brain drain’, which often happens when women are at the top of their careers.
The inquiry is a powerful opportunity to spark louder conversation and end stigma and discrimination. Alongside the government, businesses also need comprehensive strategies to ensure inclusivity and support for employees experiencing menopause. With change, we can ensure greater career longevity for women in the workplace and help their emotional, physical, and financial wellbeing.
Menopause support in the workplace
Some may be wondering what businesses can do to help employees experiencing menopause. At Workday, employees are our top priority— supporting their belonging and diversity is integral to that beyond just 9-5. We aim to provide our employees with resources that strengthen our culture of inclusion and belonging, including those across varying life stages and experiences.
Last year, we launched Maven Menopause, a program that helps employees better identify and manage symptoms through a dedicated team and digital appointments. It offers dedicated support from providers specialising in the menopause journey, including OB-GYNs, pelvic floor physical therapists, and mental health providers, and ensures people never feel alone.
It’s available to team members and their partners, as are many of our other policies.
The team has embraced Maven since its launch last year; 15% of the Australian team signed up to the program, and 30% of those for the menopause services. These are some of the most experienced individuals in the workplace—supporting them means greater longevity for women in the workplace and prevents this wealth of knowledge from leaving altogether.
Our other policies around menopause include holistic health services, tools to create a comfortable working environment and time off to manage symptoms. While everyone experiences menopause differently, businesses must set up accessible, easy-to-use policies.
Going beyond representation
Supporting women in the workplace means supporting women in all life stages. Far too often, the discussion around equity only goes as far as representation—like the number of female leaders—and fails to address women’s overall experiences within a business. At Workday, we’re doing what we can to close the gender gap while taking a holistic approach. After all, one size doesn’t fit all.
Beyond menopause, we’ve implemented a range of programs to promote inclusion for women in the workplace. These are underpinned by equity—aiming to create equal outcomes rather than treating everyone the same—and backed by technology to measure progress.
These include offering a safe space for all in our Employee Belonging Council, Women @ Workday, the other Maven services for fertility and parenting, as well as Flexible Schedules Policy for caregiving responsibilities, such as a compressed workweek, non-standard work days or part-time schedules. Our 12 weeks of paid parental leave is available to all parents welcoming a new family member, whether birth or adoption, and includes mothers, fathers, same-sex couples, and adoptive parents.
Paving a road for all
Equity is always a work in progress, but we all have the opportunity to lead the charge on change. At Workday, equity is a part of our day-to-day practices; we hire and develop a diverse workforce, foster an employee-first culture and work with our clients (some of the world’s leading brands) to improve their employee engagement and DEI initiatives.
We’ve made great progress in our DEI efforts, but we know we can do more and be better. Businesses must prioritise the wellbeing of all employees, especially those facing additional roadblocks. For far too long, people experiencing menopause have navigated it with little support from their workplace. The Senate inquiry is a welcome step on the path to progress.