An NHS Trust is set to give men 12 months of paid leave and other ‘allowances’ if they’re experiencing the so-called ‘male menopause’. But is it really a thing?
East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) bosses have reportedly been told to make certain allowances for staff experiencing symptoms associated with the drop in testosterone levels – commonly referred to as ‘male menopause’, though its technical term is ‘andropause’.
Managers at the Trust have been told they should provide portable fans, extra uniforms, and alter shift patterns to help male staff going through this change, and Tina Richardson, deputy director of human resources at EMAS, told The Telegraph that male workers are eligible for up to a year of paid leave if they’re experiencing andropause symptoms.
This all very naturally begs the question: what about ‘female menopause’? After all, just this year the Government rejected calls to trial menopause leave for women, claiming it could be counterproductive and discriminate against men.
Well, before you get too angry at the EMAS, here’s what Tina actually said: ‘As well as having menopause guidance we also support anyone within the organisation who is affected directly or indirectly by the andropause.
‘We provide occupational sick pay for up to 12 months based on service length. That will support absences which may result from symptoms of the andropause or where time off for medical appointments is required.’
What is the ‘male menopause?’
Professor Joyce Harper, the head of the Reproductive Science and Society Group at the UCL Institute for Women’s Health, says this issue is ‘an interesting one.’
She told Metro.co.uk: ‘The female menopause is a well-defined life event where women’s sex hormones (mainly oestrogen, and progesterone) dramatically decrease, they no longer have menstrual cycles, and they can no longer get pregnant naturally.
‘These hormones oscillate throughout a woman’s fertile years and changes in their levels can cause physical and psychological issues, such as premenstrual syndrome and during the perimenopause, can result in many symptoms that can severely affect a woman’s life.’
Meanwhile, a ‘male menopause’ has not been so well documented or defined.
‘But,’ Professor Joyce adds, ‘we know that men have a gradual decrease in testosterone with age.
‘This may give some men symptoms such as weight gain and depression, but whether these are the effects of ageing or the change in hormone levels has not been evaluated. These symptoms in women are often blamed on the perimenopause, but also could be due to other factors.
‘I do not think we can compare the male menopause with the female menopause. It is very well documented that the symptoms of the perimenopause can severely affect wellbeing, but I have not seen any comparable data for men.
‘My view is that anyone experiencing symptoms needs to find out if it is due to a change in their hormone levels or other factors.’
Dr Elise Dallas, women’s health GP and menopause lead at The London General Practice, adds: ‘Menopause in men is a part of a differentiational diagnosis of tiredness/brain fog/low libido, but it doesn’t happen to all men like it does to women.
‘So, I think until guidance is completed, I would be more urging on keeping women in work.’
She adds that, to her knowledge, there’s no workplace policy that lets women take a year of paid leave for their menopause.
‘And don’t think that’s the right way to go about it,’ she continues. ‘Women want to stay in work, so supporting them through enabling them to stay in and be managed properly is the right way to go, I believe.’
What about the women?
Rachel Lankester, founder of Magnificent Midlife, says that everybody needs to be supported in the workplace, regardless of their gender.
‘If men are struggling with health issues they deserve to also receive support. Everyone does,’ she emphasizes.
‘If someone is experiencing health-related issues that interfere with their work and warrant extended time off, then that would be considered by a medical practitioner before leave is granted.
‘I don’t think we need to get too worried about hoards of men bunking off work because of the andropause any time soon.’
That being said, Dr Elise also points out that menopause stigma in the workplace is sadly alive and well.
She explains: ‘I believe there are several reasons why many women still feel the need to hide menopause symptoms and worry about the impact on their careers, despite the increase in awareness campaigns.’
These reasons she lists are –
Lack of education and awareness: ‘Menopause is a natural transition in a woman’s life, but unfortunately, it remains a topic that is not widely understood. Although awareness campaigns about menopause have increased in recent years, there is still a significant knowledge gap among the general public, including employers and colleagues. This lack of understanding can lead to misconceptions, stigma, and even discrimination, making women hesitant to openly discuss their symptoms.’
Societal expectations and ageism: ‘Society often places unrealistic expectations on women to maintain a youthful appearance and peak productivity throughout their careers. Menopause, being associated with ageing and hormonal changes, challenges these expectations. Women may worry that disclosing their menopause symptoms could lead to biases, stereotypes, or perceptions of decreased competence, hindering their career advancement or opportunities.’
Workplace culture and support: ‘In some workplaces, there may be a lack of supportive policies, resources, and accommodations specifically addressing menopause. Women may fear negative consequences or may not be aware of the available support systems. This lack of support can make women feel isolated, leading them to hide their symptoms to avoid potential judgment or discrimination.’
And personal perception and confidence: ‘Women’s individual perceptions and confidence levels also play a role. Some women may feel uncomfortable discussing personal health matters, including menopause, in professional settings. They may worry about being seen as weak or vulnerable, or they may fear being judged by their peers or superiors. These concerns can prevent women from seeking support and openly discussing their experiences.’
Dr Elise says that the key to addressing these challenges lies in raising awareness about menopause, and the impact it can have on women.
‘Education should target not only women themselves but also employers, colleagues, and the general public,’ she adds.
‘Workplace policies need to be reviewed and improved to ensure support and accommodations for women experiencing menopause. There were two specific changes needed – these were sickness policies which address menopause, and flexible working.’
Metro.co.uk has reached out to the East Midlands Ambulance Service for comment.
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