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Menopause training should be mandatory for all school leaders, says UK union

April 12, 2024

The UK’s biggest teaching union is to lobby for menopause training to be made mandatory for all school leaders, saying women with symptoms are being penalised for sickness absence and disciplined on competency grounds.

Older staff were at greatest risk of “capability procedures”, delegates at the National Education Union’s (NEU) annual conference in Bournemouth were told, while others were being forced out of their jobs, affecting not only their income but their pensions.

Menopause is a key issue for the school workforce as 75% are female. Karen Kemble, the joint NEU district and branch secretary in Hounslow, west London, told the conference: “I’m going to call this what it is: ageism, misogyny and discrimination.

The joke image of women experiencing the menopause is of a red-faced, sweaty woman saying: ‘Oh God, is it hot in here?’ The reality is that the drop in oestrogen can lead to a vast array of consequences.

“Yes, temperature regulation, but also muscle and joint pain, memory issues, anxiety, depression, low mood, irritability, difficulty sleeping, headaches, migraines, loss of self confidence, heart palpitations, urinary tract infections … the list goes on.

“Now imagine being a teacher or support staff member in an incredibly busy understaffed, underfunded workplace. Is it any wonder that some women struggle to do their job as they did five, 10, 15 years before?”

Kemble said this was not because women become less capable or less hard-working at this stage in their lives. “Many of these women can function brilliantly with workplace adjustments but are unaware they can request them or are reticent to ask for fear of being judged.

“Then we find these women in need of our support, in cases of absence management, capability and grievances about being passed over for a promotion. Too many women are leaving the profession or are going part-time … in an attempt to cope. This is unacceptable. It’s discriminatory.”

The conference also voted for the leadership to push for a menopause policy to be made mandatory in every school and college and called for increased training for reps on workers’ rights around this issue in the workplace.

Daniel Kebede, the NEU general secretary, said: “Every woman’s experience of the menopause is different but mistreatment and a lack of understanding is forcing valuable experienced teachers and support staff out of their jobs.

“We want to see dignity, privacy and respect in the workplace for staff who are experiencing menopause. Our members should not be penalised for sickness absence where working arrangements have not been adjusted to accommodate their needs.

“Menopausal staff should be given appropriate flexibility, support, and adjustments – according to their needs – to remove or reduce disadvantages and allow them to work successfully. Employers should undertake a work environment assessment to make sure that the physical environment is not making symptoms worse.”




Source: The Guardian

Image: LetchWorth