Menopause benefits—such as virtual care support and hormone therapy support—are a small but growing workplace trend. Companies including Microsoft, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and pharmaceutical firm Sanofi are among the roughly 4 percent of employers offering such benefits to their workforces.
Although the number is small, according to data from benefits consultant NFP, it has big potential for growth. The firm finds that many more (roughly a third of HR leaders who responded to its recent survey) would be open to adding a menopause benefit in the next five years.
So how can HR leaders who are thinking about adding such a benefit to support employees going through perimenopause and menopause find success? Here are tips from industry insiders.
Get feedback from employees. First things first: Talk to employees to understand what they’re looking for and who wants support. That will also give company leaders a sense of how important employees feel workplace support for menopause is. Kate Ryder, CEO of Maven Clinic, said HR and benefits leaders should go on a listening tour with several employees who are going through menopause or have gone through menopause. That way, she said, HR leaders can “understand what they need and what’s been lacking and then really go pick the benefit, or benefits, that they are trying to fundamentally solve for in an evidence-backed way.”
Think about working with a provider. Providers including Maven Clinic, Midi Health and Carrot Fertility have menopause benefit products that employers can offer to employees. Many of these providers have expertise and training specifically in menopause care.
That simplified things for Microsoft when it added a menopause benefit in July through Maven Clinic, said Sonja Kellen, Microsoft’s senior director of global health and wellness.
“Having that solution, where you’re really helping guide [employees] and give them the support and the resources to help them on that journey, is important,” she said.
Other employers have implemented menopause-specific paid leave so that employees going through menopause can take time off when they are having symptoms.
Make sure menopause benefits are supplemented by other comprehensive benefits. Although having specific benefits or platforms in place is important, Kellen said it extends beyond that. Menopause benefits should be supplemented by a comprehensive suite of benefits, including mental health help, generous paid time off and flexible schedules.
“You need to make sure employees have holistic health care, they have sick leave, robust time away,” she said. “It’s about menopause support specifically, but it’s also about things like, ‘Do you have flexible working guidelines that really allow people to structure their schedule in a way that works best for them?’ That’s important when you’re going through something.”
Train company leaders. Training should be given to managers and stakeholders about menopause and other age-related health experiences, Kellen said.
“Having it be a part of your culture and how you talk is super important,” she said. “You should give people tips, especially managers, on how to have this conversation with and among your peers in a way that feels safe and comfortable. It can’t just be the thing that you relegate and don’t talk about.”
It’s also good practice to appoint an HR contact for employees or managers who have questions about menopause-related policies or benefits.
Consider working with a women’s group or ERG. HR and benefits leaders might benefit from working with a company’s women’s group or employee resource group (ERG)—or having the benefits provider work with them.
“We often recommend partnering with a women’s interest group or ERG at the employer so we can work together with them to address the stigma around menopause in the workplace and get the word out that help is available to them,” said Joanna Strober, CEO and founder of Midi Health, a virtual health clinic that specializes in perimenopause and menopause.
Educate employees. Simply introducing a perimenopause or menopause benefit will not go far enough to ensure people take advantage of the assistance, Strober said. “Because of ongoing myths, miseducation and stigmas about talking about hormonal change, many women may not even recognize what is happening to their bodies, especially in the early stages of perimenopause. Others may choose to suffer in silence because of misinformation about the different types of help available to them and the actual risks and benefits of therapies.”
Strober suggested that employers offer educational tools, such as in-depth webinars with clinical leaders “that cover how to recognize the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, when to seek care, and the pros and cons of different treatment options.”
Educate the entire workforce. Although menopause is thought of as a women’s health issue, a good rule of thumb is for HR leaders to develop educational programming for male allies at work, as well. “We have found men to be very interested in educating themselves in order to better support the women in their lives so they can be not only better partners but better colleagues and managers,” Strober said.