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Policy pledges menopause and menstruation support for Scottish NHS staff

Female nurses, and other healthcare staff, in the Scottish NHS are being offered more support with menstrual health and menopause, under a new policy coming into force in the country.

The Scottish Government published its national Menopause and Menstrual Health Workplace Policy on at the end of October, which came into effect immediately.

“This policy will ensure the menstrual status of women is no barrier to jobs and careers in healthcare”

Kathleen Riach

It specifies reasonable adjustments that can be made for women experiencing menopause, or issues with menstrual health such as endometriosis, as well as laying out who is responsible for implementing and safeguarding them.

The Scottish Government said it hoped that the policy would create an “environment where women feel confident in raising health issues” and, in turn, so solutions to these issues are developed.

As part of this policy, a document for line managers sets out what should be done in the workplace to accommodate someone with additional menstrual health needs, particularly those for whom symptoms are impacting their ability to work comfortably.

This document, which includes specific support for trans, non-binary and intersex people, sets out that line managers should be the first point of contact for anybody needing additional menstrual needs.

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Line managers are told they must be willing to “openly” discuss staff issues, according to the policy. It suggests line managers have monthly informal conversations in a safe space to talk about anything that might hinder their ability to work.

The document further lays out how to approach these conversations, and gives tips on how to put together reasonable adjustments.

According to another part of the policy, these reasonable adjustments may depend on the symptoms or issues the member of staff is facing.

It states the possible adjustments for women experiencing menopause under the Equality Act and Health and Safety at Work Act.

For those experiencing dysmenorrhoea (painful periods), endometriosis, or other disruptions from menstrual health, the policy tells employers their staff may be entitled to temporary adjustments to their work duties, quieter areas to work in, easier access to drinking water, or even planned leave.

The new policy comes as part of the government’s Women’s Health Plan, following a study of NHS employees in Scotland.

That plan set out short, medium and long-term actions to be taken by the NHS in Scotland, including, specific priorities for contraception, abortion, sexual health and pre-pregnancy, menopause, menstrual health, endometriosis, heart health, gender and health, and lived experience were specified.

For menopause, menstrual health and endometriosis, the long-term plan promised that access will be improved for women to access support and faster diagnosis for such conditions.

In other areas, the policy pledged to improve timely abortion care, the establishment of a dedicated menopause policy post in the Scottish Government, and a more “holistic approach” to menopause care.

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Among many other measures, it also pledged to ensure health budget decisions were “reflective of the needs and rights” of women.

Jenni Minot, minister for women’s health, described the new Menopause and Menstrual Health Workplace Policy as a “positive example” for reducing barriers to women’s health in the workplace.

“It’s important to foster a culture of awareness and compassionate management in the workplace so women feel confident and comfortable in raising issues around their menopause or menstrual health,” said Ms Minot.

“NHS Scotland’s policy will recommend a number of measures that will make work life easier such as flexible breaks and working arrangements.

“We hope it promotes equivalent efforts across the public, private and third sectors,” she added.

Professor Kathleen Riach, who conducted research to inform the policy, said: “NHS Scotland’s new Menopause and Menstrual Health Workplace Policy marks a vital step in ensuring all employees are valued, supported, and recognised as an integral part of the country’s workforce, no matter their age or stage of their reproductive lives.

“Healthier women mean a healthier economy. By identifying and scaling some of the best practice currently existing across the NHS Scotland workforce, as well as introducing new evidence-based practises, this policy will ensure the menstrual status of women is no barrier to jobs and careers in healthcare.”

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