Stigma around menopause still exists and a majority of police officers and staff struggle at work when enduring the symptoms, a first of a kind survey has revealed.
The Police Federation of England and Wales’ (PFEW) Menopause Survey, initiated to help improve working conditions for PFEW’s federated members, soon caught the attention of others in policing when UNISON, the Police Superintendents’ Association, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), and the College of Policing got on board to help promote it to their members and staff.
The findings give insight into just how much the condition affects the working lives of police officers and staff.
A vast majority (76%) who had either gone through or were going through the menopause admitted they had found symptoms either moderately or extremely problematic at work, with more than eight out of ten agreeing tiredness and sleep disturbances were having a detrimental effect.
Another concerning finding revealed nearly half of respondents (44%) who found their symptoms extremely problematic have considered quitting the force as a result.
A number of respondents said they would be too embarrassed to discuss symptoms with their line manager and believe they would be treated differently in a negative way if they did disclose, as it could be seen as a sign of weakness.
Often respondents flagged their line manager was male and sometimes younger than them, which they also saw as an additional barrier to disclosure.
It is hoped the findings of the survey will be used to better represent and support anyone within the police workforce going through the menopause, as well as to inform future policy and guidance on the topic.
Other key statistics found:
• A majority of respondents said that low mood and lower confidence as a result of the menopause had been either moderately or extremely problematic for them at work
•44% of respondents who had taken sickness absence due to the menopause had not told their manager the real reason for their absence; only 9% who had told their manager the real reason said that their absence had been recorded accurately
•62% of respondents had attended work despite feeling that they should have taken sick leave because they were experiencing symptoms of the menopause, and 35% of respondents had taken annual leave or rest days to take time off because of their symptoms
•86% of managers who responded to the survey said that they would be at least somewhat confident to support someone they line-managed who was going through the menopause
•Only 11% of managers said that they had been given training on how to support someone going through the menopause
The survey was launched on the 18 October 2018 and was open for six weeks. Overall, 6,315 useable responses were received, of which 59% of respondents were police officers and 40% were police staff (1% were in another role within the police service).
Revealing the findings at this week’s Menopause Action Group (MAG) Conference, held in Wakefield on 11 April, Hayley Aley, a women’s lead for PFEW said: “Up until now there has only been anecdotal evidence on just how much the menopause affects officers and staff in the police service.
“PFEW’s survey was not only aimed at those who have gone, or are going through the menopause, it was also aimed at line managers to give us a better understanding of what kind of support is out there.
“Sadly, the findings are not surprising – from a support perspective, only 11% managers have received training, or are aware of policy or guidance on an issue that affects so much of their workforce.
“Officers and staff do not feel they can be open about what they are going through and would rather struggle to come into work or take leave instead of report sick. The survey results show that there is less than adequate reporting facilities in forces.
“We need every force to recognise the impact that the menopause can have on health and just how unwell it can make you feel – every force should add menopause as an option in their sickness absence reporting fields.
“I’d like to say that our findings come as a surprise – they don’t but we now have an evidence-base to push for positive change.”
In England and Wales, around a third of female police officers are aged 45 or over, therefore the menopause presents an important occupational health issue that has the potential to affect thousands of people within the police service.
NB Headline findings report available on request.