Within the space of FOUR days the government have contradicted themselves completely.
On Tuesday 24th January, the government announced that it was rejecting the Cross Party Commission into Menopause and the workplace’s recommendation, to investigate the introduction of menopause leave and more importantly not to make menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. The reason given was that it would compromise men with long term illness.
The headlines went viral and I spent the day doing press work. Let’s be clear, both men and women suffer with long term illness it is not gender specific. Also, menopause is not an illness it is a fact of female life. 51% of our population will have one.
On Sunday 22nd January (two days earlier), the press had been discussing how the government were focused on getting those who retired early, to return to work as their skills are desperately needed. The age group discussed was 50+, which for those who don’t know is right in the middle of the menopause years.
On Wednesday 25th January (one day later), we are informed that the government intends to increase the pension age by a year to 68, a decade earlier than planned in order to save money.
How are these three things linked?
On average women experience their symptoms between the age of 45 and 55, although we are seeing increasing numbers starting this process (perimenopause) in their late 30s early 40s. 75% of women experience at least one troublesome symptom. 25% have an utterly devastating experience (that was me). We know that 10% leave the workplace completely and a further 10% consider it, often electing to downgrade their careers and ultimately their pensions.
Without effective support which has some legal imperative behind it, women will leave work. This means a loss of brilliant, skilled and connected people, who not only contribute directly to the business, they mentor and sponsor the younger generation and draw younger ambitious women to their employers doors. Losing women at this point is an economic catastrophe.
More women than ever before are the sole or primary earners in their household. Should these women choose to leave, the impact on society is considerable. The burden on the state to support them and their families increases.
There is a need for this government to join the dots and start to recognise the impact of their ill informed, disjointed and short sighted decision. It is time we as women and the men we interact with start to call for changes to law that recognise women’s contribution.
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