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At BMJ, our menopause and menstruation policy helps employees feel able to ask for the adjustments they need to help them manage their symptoms at work.

BMJ’s leadership team also fully supports the Menopause Workplace Pledge, of which we are an official partner.

Experiences of menstruation and menopause can range from coping with mild discomfort to being severely debilitated. Yet, talking about menstruation and menopause can be difficult and uncomfortable. Many mask their symptoms in the workplace, and cope as best they can.

At BMJ, we support employees with this formal policy that enables them to ask for adjustments to help them manage their symptoms at work.

It also supports line managers to better understand the issues related to menstruation and menopause and be ready to adequately support their direct reports. Where this policy refers to women it intends to include all people who experience menstruation and menopause.

Reasonable adjustments 

We make it the employee’s choice to share information about their menopause or PMS, PMDD symptoms and with who. 

To arrange for reasonable adjustments, an employee will need to discuss their menopause or period related medical impairments with their line manager. 

We also provide multiple points of call for employees to discuss their issue with, should they not wish or find it difficult to discuss the issue with their direct line manager. Examples of such support include BMJ’s HR business partner, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager,  Chairs of the Women and BMJ network, a trusted colleague, a mental health first aider, or a  union rep.

Reasonable adjustments will need to be agreed upon between the employee and the line manager and reviewed regularly. Support from the HR team to facilitate such discussion and identify appropriate adjustments can be requested at any time. 

When discussing reasonable adjustments, the parties should focus on adjustments that can remove or reduce the disadvantage experienced by the employee, and allow them to be successful at work, rather than focussing on the condition itself or whether or not it amounts to a disability. A medical certificate is not required to arrange for reasonable adjustments. 

Occupational health 

A working environment assessment can ensure that an employee’s physical environment, whether at home or in the office, is not making their menopausal or period symptoms worse.

Sickness and paid leave 

If an employee feels unwell and unfit for work due to menopausal symptoms or PMS or PMDD, they are entitled to request sickness absence, in accordance with BMJ Sickness Absence Policy, without fear of discrimination. 

Counselling service 

BMJ provides access to a confidential service via the Employee Assistance Programme. The service offers support, expert advice and specialist counselling. It’s free and easy to access for BMJ staff. 

Menopause symptoms

Menopause is experienced usually between the ages of 45-55, though some women can experience it earlier than this, due to ‘premature menopause’ or surgery. Symptoms can manifest both physically and psychologically and are different for everyone.

Seventy-five per cent of women experience symptoms and 25% experience severe symptoms which can be debilitating. Symptoms can have a huge effect on a woman’s comfort and performance when working.

This policy is put in place to ensure that all staff experiencing menopausal symptoms receive support. It is also designed to ensure women suffering from menopausal symptoms can feel empowered to ask for adjustments without embarrassment. We believe it is important that colleagues and line managers understand how they can support employees experiencing such symptoms and agree on reasonable adjustments. 

Menopausal symptoms vary greatly for each individual, but can commonly include: hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, dizziness, fatigue, memory loss, depression, headaches, recurrent urinary tract infections, joint stiffness, aches and pains, reduced concentration, and heavy periods. 

Menstrual period and PMS symptoms

These symptoms are characterised by their monthly predictable pattern, as they come before and during the menstrual cycle. Some women get only mild symptoms. For others, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms may be so severe that it makes it hard to do everyday activities like going to work.

Symptoms tend to recur in a predictable pattern, however, their severity can vary at different times of a woman’s life. Most commonly experienced symptoms include: breast swelling and tenderness, bloating, acne breakouts, leg, back, or stomach cramping, constipation, diarrhoea, headaches, back pain, mood swings, depression or anxiety.

PMDD symptoms 

Similarly to PMS, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) follows a mostly predictable monthly pattern. However, PMDD is a much more severe form of PMS. Symptoms vary from person to person, and can include: irritability and agitation, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, depression, severe fatigue, anxiety, forgetfulness, swelling of ankles, hands and feet, fluid retention, allergies, eye infection, headache, dizziness, fainting, numbness, heart palpitations, muscle spasms, skin inflammation, and severe cramping, aches and pains.

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BMJ human resources department