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Hybrid working, flexible hours and cooler offices for college staff experiencing menopause

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@CollEmployScot : College staff with severe menopause symptoms are benefitting from home working, extra breaks and flexible hours thanks to a national policy aimed at boosting wellbeing.

Significant resource has also been ploughed into creating workplace experts, or Menopause Champions, who are helping individuals open up about their experiences and struggles.

Feedback has been positive, with one employee describing the new support as “literally life-changing”.

Scotland’s 24 colleges jointly launched a Menopause Policy with trade unions in October 2022, amid growing awareness of the need to offer assistance at work.

The measure was drafted and agreed by the National Joint Negotiating Committee (NJNC), which has representatives from Scotland’s colleges and from the EIS-FELA, UNISON, Unite and GMB trade unions.

Menopause marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle and usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. Symptoms can last for many years and include depression, memory loss, exhaustion, and disturbed sleep.

The impact of menopause on an individual’s working life is often significant. According to a report published last year by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, around one in six people (17%) have considered quitting due to lack of support for menopause symptoms. The report said a further 6 per cent had left work because of this problem.

College Employers Scotland (CES), which represents colleges as employers, recently issued a survey that asked colleges to outline changes introduced since the Menopause Policy was launched. The details are today being released to mark Women’s Health Month.

Survey responses show that Edinburgh, Dundee and Angus, Glasgow Clyde, and UHI North, West and Hebrides colleges provide home or hybrid working opportunities, depending on roles, to employees with menopause symptoms. Other measures, such as additional or extended breaks and flexible work times, have been brought in at Forth Valley, Glasgow Kelvin, and North East Scotland (NESCOL) colleges, as well as at UHI Perth and New College Lanarkshire. Edinburgh College has given staff extra time for tasks and trains all managers to provide menopause-related support.

Colleges have also taken steps to ensure that menopausal employees are physically comfortable while working. For example, at UHI North, West and Hebrides, staff have been permitted to move to a cooler part of the premises, and a number of institutions now offer desk or neck fans.

Increasing openness about the menopause is another priority, with colleges launching a range of initiatives to boost communication. These include Menopause Champions at NESCOL and Glasgow Clyde, and voluntary support groups such as UHI Moray’s +Ve Pause.

Lynn Laing, Learning and Development Business Partner at NESCOL, said: “By raising awareness and understanding of the menopause, working with senior leaders and managers as well as individual staff, we’re creating the right culture.

“One of the first things we did was set up a menopause group to engage with staff and provide a forum for discussion, which helped us when we created our Menopause Wellbeing Guide. The work of our Wellbeing Champions has also been great and helps bring people together.

“The overwhelmingly positive feedback we received has reaffirmed how necessary the work has been for our staff who are going through the menopause and has helped the college take a significant step in breaking the taboo that still surrounds the issue.”

Katie Willis Khan, HR Manager (Operations) at Edinburgh College, said: “I have been delivering menopause awareness training since lockdown and recently, as word is getting about, I have noticed the men in the room are really interested and supportive.

“I am encouraged that across the sector we can actively support women to not need to permanently reduce their hours or even leave the workplace altogether when experiencing symptoms.”

Gavin Donoghue, CES Director, said: “The wide range of measures rolled out by colleges shows the determination of the sector to provide support that is tailored to the needs of each individual employee.

“Such support will be vital to enhancing the wellbeing of college staff during what can be an extremely challenging period in their lives. It will also help staff to continue to provide the world-class learning experience that students expect and deserve.”

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