“My name is Brenda. I’m 47 years old and have been a Special Constable for 20 years.
“I have always loved my job and thrive on the variety of challenges that come my way each day. However, recently I’ve found it much more difficult and challenging than usual. Not from a workload point of view, but more from a personal perspective. I just don’t feel like I’m performing as well as I used to, and I spend a lot of my days either confused, upset or off-the-scale angry. I’m also really anxious that other people have noticed a change, and I’m terrified that my boss will notice a drop in the quality of my work and I’ll end up getting sacked.
I’ve always been a confident person, and never been afraid to speak my mind or stick up for myself (it comes with the territory I suppose) but recently I’ve found myself avoiding confrontation and stepping aside from the spotlight. As a female officer, I can often be the only female on a shift. It’s never bothered me before, and I’ve always given as good as I get in the banter stakes, but recently I find myself being very defensive and snapping back at things I’d normally laugh along with. Sometimes I don’t want to go to work at all if I think I might get teased too much.
It doesn’t help I suppose that my uniform is driving me crazy too. It’s so hot and itchy to wear. I sometimes end my shift with raw patches of skin where my waistband has rubbed or under my arms where the friction caused by the extra padding of my stab vest has caused the fabric of my shirt to rub my skin. It can be really distracting.
I’m not particularly overweight, I could afford to lose a few pounds like most people, but I try and keep trim just to make my job easier if nothing else. But I’ve started to feel constantly bloated and this makes my uniform feel tight, and hotter than usual. The sweats I get when I’m out and about are also really embarrassing. My colleagues have started to notice and jokingly put their hands to my face to warm up when we’re out in the cold weather. I hate them doing it, but they tease me even more if I say anything.
I dread the cold months as much as the summer heat at times when I need to wear full rain gear and PPE. I feel trapped in so many heavy layers and can’t seem to breathe properly. I’ve even had full-on panic attacks where I’ve felt totally out of control.
I just don’t know what’s happening to me. One of my friends said it could be menopause, but I’m only 47 so that’s way too young. Anyway, I still have regular periods. In fact, I seem to have more heavier periods than before so there’s no way I can be menopausal.
I dare not speak to my line manager about any of this, because he’s bound to say I’m no longer capable of doing the job, and then what? I don’t know how to do anything else. I’m the main breadwinner at home as my husband is on long-term sick, so if I don’t work, what would happen to us as a family? I just need to keep my head down and get on with it I suppose and hope it’s just a passing phase.”
What can Brenda’s workplace do to help? How can they provide support to make sure Brenda can continue to perform safely and confidently in all her duties?
When it comes to helping Brenda navigate menopause, her workplace can play a vital role in ensuring her safety and confidence in carrying out her duties. Here are some proactive measures that can be implemented:
- Raising Awareness: Brenda’s workplace should prioritise raising awareness about menopause among all employees. By educating the workforce about the range of symptoms and their potential impact on individuals, colleagues, or family members, everyone can better understand and empathize with the challenges Brenda might be facing.
- Implementing a Menopause Policy: To demonstrate unwavering support for the well-being of their staff, Brenda’s workplace can introduce a comprehensive menopause policy. This policy will not only promote a culture of understanding but also ensure that language and behaviour amongst colleagues are respectful and sensitive, reducing the risk of distress, anxiety, or formal complaints.
- Encouraging Open Dialogue: Fostering open conversations about menopause between line managers and staff is essential. By breaking the taboo surrounding menopause, the workplace can create an environment where discussing sensitive topics becomes the norm, making it more comfortable for Brenda and others to seek support.
- Employee Assistance Programme and Occupational Health: Brenda’s workplace can provide access to resources like an Employee Assistance Programme or Occupational Health Services. These resources can be invaluable if Brenda experiences troublesome symptoms while at work, ensuring she gets the necessary help and support.
- Arranging Reasonable Adjustments: In situations where Brenda is struggling to manage specific symptoms while performing her duties, her workplace should be proactive in making reasonable adjustments. This could include flexible working hours, workload modifications, or other accommodations tailored to her needs.
By taking these focused measures to support Brenda and employees experiencing menopause, Brenda’s workplace can create a more inclusive, understanding, and empathetic environment that prioritizes the well-being of all staff.