Rail transport business Southeastern has been accredited as a menopause-friendly employer by industry body Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace.
Henpicked’s Menopause Friendly Accreditation sets out a number of standards and practices for employers to meet, which aim to embrace and support those dealing with symptoms of the menopause in the workplace. Employers are then assessed by an independent panel across six key areas: culture, policies and practices, training, engagement, facilities, and evaluation.
Southeastern has more than 500 female employees aged above 40 within its 4,000-strong workforce. To support these women, and those around them, the business published a suite of documents on its intranet, providing a foundation for staff and managers in order to help them gain confidence in discussing these issues in person.
The employer also launched ‘Menopause Matters’ drop-in sessions, to provide a safe space for discussion and learning, and on a practical level, made changes to women’s uniforms and allowed staff to change their working patterns in order to help with symptoms such as hot flushes and disrupted sleep patterns.
Southeastern reported an increase in employees reaching out to its Women in Rail Empowerment (WIRE) network as a result of the actions taken to normalise and promote discussion of the menopause and its symptoms at work.
Deborah Thomas (pictured), health and wellbeing promotions manager at Southeastern, said: “The change in policy in 2019 really opened the floodgates for people to have those conversations that would have been considered impossible just a few years before – it was an essential thing that needed to happen.
“Now managers are much more aware of what some women are going through which allows them to be more supportive and make adjustments accordingly…Having an understanding employer and a workplace where menopause is openly discussed can make all the difference to how you’re able to cope with the symptoms.”
Mark Johnson, engineering director and executive sponsor for WIRE at Southeastern, said: “Gaining this accreditation means a lot to us and our staff, as the accreditation process encouraged us to involve all areas of the business including frontline and office-based colleagues. We covered everything from talking to station teams and senior managers to attending health fairs across the business and marking national events.”
Maureen Dominey, chair of the Women’s Network Group at Southeastern, added: “We first launched our menopause policy in 2019 so we’re delighted to now be independently accredited for our efforts, especially as we work in a traditionally male-dominated industry…The e-learning training that’s available to all our line managers is an incredibly useful tool to help raise awareness and gives our managers the confidence to have the conversation. When we first started talking about the menopause, some people were uncomfortable but that’s no longer the case – it was important to remove that taboo.”
Deborah Garlick, CEO of Henpicked: Menopause In The Workplace, said: “Southeastern is to be applauded for its commitment and has clearly made a difference by talking openly about menopause and normalising the conversation. Southeastern had to find a strategy that would embrace all its staff, whether they are working at head office, in the depots, at the stations or on the trains. That is no small undertaking but by shaping a bespoke policy and speaking to colleagues across all areas of the organisation, they were inclusive of everyone’s needs.”
In addition to Menopause Friendly Accreditation, Southeastern has demonstrated its commitment to inclusion and diversity by joining Work180 as an endorsed employer for women. It also signed the Mindful Employer Charter and Armed Forces Covenant, signed up to be an Endometriosis Friendly Employer, became a member of Inclusive Employers, and has worked with the Business Disability Forum to review its processes and practices.