The Committee was reminded that the Council, at its meeting on 3rd February, 2020, had passed the following motion on menopause awareness, which had been proposed by the Deputy Lord Mayor (Councillor M. Kelly) and seconded by Councillor Long:
“This Council resolves to work with organisations, such as Trade Unions, to ensure that Belfast City Council and its staff are Menopause Aware, have an understanding of the support available should they be concerned over symptoms which they might be experiencing, and recognises menopause as a workplace issue.”
The Director of City and Organisational Strategy reported that, in response to the motion, it had been agreed that the Council should develop a Menopause Policy and associated guidance. A subgroup of the Council’s Women’s Network Group, which had been established to progress that work, had undertaken a benchmarking exercise to assess good practice in other organisations. It had also consulted widely with the Women’s Network Group and Women’s Steering Group.
He drew the Members’ attention to the final draft policy which was being presented to the Committee for approval and confirmed that it had been agreed by both management side and the Trades Union side of the Joint Negotiation and Consultative Committee. The aims and objectives of the policy were to:
· break the stigma surrounding the menopause;
· ensure increased awareness of menopause issues among employees and managers;
· outline how employees could be supported by their managers;
· set out what employees needed to do if they are experiencing menopause symptoms that are impacting on their health, wellbeing and work;
· provide guidance on facilitating conversations between managers and staff about menopause related symptoms impacting and what managers can do to provide the necessary support;
· create an environment where women feel confident enough to raise issues about their symptoms and ask for reasonable adjustments at work, if necessary; and
· promote a greater understanding of the menopause and how employees are affected.
The Director of City and Organisational Strategy confirmed that a communication and training plan would be developed to implement the policy, when fully agreed, and an informal menopause support network would be set up, via the Women’s Network Group, to facilitate ongoing support for employees.
He went on to remind the Committee that, at its meeting on 21st October, 2021, it had amended a motion on Fertility Treatment Leave to include menopause leave. He explained that, where an employee was absent from work due to menopause symptoms, sickness absence was dealt with sensitively through the Attendance Policy. Furthermore, through consultation with the Trades Unions, it had been agreed that the list of potential reasons for the use of discretion would be amended in the Attendance Booklet to include menopause specifically.
i. the wording in part 8.1 of the policy, requiring Council employees to “be open and honest with their managers/HR or Occupational Health if they are struggling with menopausal symptoms and need support, to enable them to continue to be effective in their job”, to be reviewed to correspond with the advice for managers provided within the guidance document, where the emphasis was on sensitivity, privacy and support; and
ii. a link to be inserted at the end of the guidance document to the Menopause Support Toolkit for Employers, which had been developed by the Trades Union Congress.