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Normalising menopause is hugely valuable says expert as MIC launches new Menopause Guidelines

Catherine, Lorraine and Gary standing side by side at the launch of the Menopause Guidelines. Catherine and Gary are wearing navy and Lorraine is dressed in pink.

Photo: Catherine O'Keeffe, Menopause Workplace Consultant; Professor Lorraine McIlrath, Director of Equality, Diversity, Inclusion & Interculturalism at MIC; Professor Gary O'Brien, Vice-President of Governance & Strategy at MIC

Normalising menopause “is like gold-dust” according to Menopause Workplace Consultant, Catherine O’Keeffe, as she launched new Menopause Guidelines for Staff and Students at Mary Immaculate College (MIC) this week.

The new guidelines aim to encourage an open and supportive workplace and place of learning for those experiencing issues associated with menopause and to ensure necessary and reasonable supports are offered in an empathetic way.  

Menopause is defined as a biological stage in a person’s life that occurs when they stop menstruating and reach the end of their natural reproductive life. For many, symptoms last about four years, but in some cases can continue for much longer and range from very few or no symptoms to severe symptoms. Typical impacts can include anxiety, brain fog, impact on confidence, hot flushes and night sweats, insomnia, poor concentration, fatigue and weight gain.

Addressing a large group of MIC staff and students, Catherine O’Keeffe said: “Everyone is impacted by the menopause. It’s not just the person going through it but also the touch points in that person’s life, such as their partner, children, family, friends and work colleagues. That’s why it’s vital that everyone is part of the conversation and that we bring that awareness, not just to the person going through it but also to everyone in their life.

“It’s also important that we recognise that there’s different types of menopause and people have different experiences. Acknowledging and respecting that means that we can be much more empathetic and offer much more tailored support.”

The introduction of menopause specific guidelines is an important step in creating a deeply inclusive workplace and place of learning, explained Professor Lorraine McIlrath, Vice-President of Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Interculturalism: “The menopause needs to be normalised, acknowledged and accepted as a normal part of the life across all levels of society and within MIC. By having conversations regarding the menopause, and the challenges it can present in the workplace, progress can be made towards deepening an inclusive organisational culture at MIC.”

“MIC aims to ensure that individuals feel confident in discussing menopausal symptoms and can ask for support and adjustments. MIC is committed to ensuring that all individual are treated fairly and with dignity and respect in their environment. In addition to the efforts to the introduction of guidelines, we also hope to hold a number of events and training for our staff and to develop a number of Menopause Champions who can advocate for and support women.”

It is estimated that there are 350,000 women in this cohort in paid employment in Ireland, with approximately 85% of female MIC staff members in the age group of those who can be affected by symptoms of perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause.

According to research by The Menopause Hub in October 2021, 12% of women said they had given up work due to menopause symptoms, with an additional 40% saying they had considered it. 82% of respondents said their performance at work had been impacted to some degree, and almost 40% said they had missed work because of symptoms. Of these, over 85% said they were not comfortable telling their line manager the real reason for their absence.