Dalhousie University is ensuring a menopause-inclusive workplace by offering resources such as a monthly support group for employees and manager training.

“We took a leap in 2022 to include menopause as part of our wellness activities and have now expanded to a monthly support group that’s grown to more than 80 employees exploring the transition to menopause through discussions around nutrition, advocacy, mental health, hormone therapy and more,” said Dr. Shawna O’Hearn, director of global health at Dalhousie University.

It’s important for employers to understand the needs of their entire workforce so employees can be their best selves, she adds. “The strategies aren’t complicated, we just need to remove the stigma, remove the silence and create open, inclusive workplaces. We’ve been talking about diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace for a while now, but women’s experiences in midlife have been forgotten.”

Read: Back to basics on menopause support

The university provides training for managers to support employees going through menopause and ensure they have a voice within the workplace. Its departments are also exploring flexible work schedules, making quiet spaces for employees to recharge and developing strategies to support all employees.

Dalhousie’s menopause initiatives were highlighted in a recent report by the Menopause Foundation of Canada and Sun Life Financial Inc. It found menopause costs Canadian employers $237 million annually in lost productivity and costs women $3.3 billion in lost income due to a reduction in hours and/or pay or leaving the workforce altogether. It also found roughly 540,000 lost days of work can be attributed to menopause symptom management.

The majority (87 per cent) of female employees felt their employer doesn’t provide — or doesn’t know if they provide — menopause support. The most requested supports were medical coverage, flexible workplace policies and general awareness and education.

Read: A look at the U.K.’s menopause-supportive workplaces

More than two-thirds (70 per cent) of women said they wouldn’t feel comfortable speaking to someone in human resources or their supervisor (67 per cent) about what they were experiencing. Half (48 per cent) said they’d be too embarrassed to ask for help at work, while a third (32 per cent) said their menopause symptoms have negatively impacted their performance at work and 24 per cent reported hiding their symptoms at work.

“This report has provided concrete evidence, so it’s no longer just women quietly having conversations and feeling embarrassed,” says O’Hearn. “However, there’s not one solution for every [company]. While Dalhousie has approached it one way, every organization should really listen to their employees, learn from them and then start to act.”

Read: Just 14% of U.S. women say employer recognizes need for menopause benefits: survey