Female staff of menopausal age in health services will be allowed to work from home, have flexible working hours or switch to lighter duties.
So says Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, which offers them a “menopause passport”.
It’s clearly a well-intentioned move and one that, predictably, was met with glee in some circles.
Broadcaster Mariella Frostrup, who chairs Menopause Mandate, for example, is thrilled, insisting that “it’s not a concession – it’s common sense”, and that employers should support a menopausal woman the same way. way as a woman struggling with a pregnancy.
Carolyn Harris, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Menopause, agrees, saying we should all welcome the development – and issues a stark warning to male workers who might be tempted to raise an eyebrow.
Amanda Pritchard, CEO of NHS England, takes part in a panel discussion at the CBI annual conference. She offered a ‘menopause passport’ to women working in the health service who go through it
“Any man who thinks that [the menopause] is a walk in the park has something else to come,” she thundered.
Everything is fine. But even though I am a proud feminist whose fervent wish is to see women properly respected in the workplace, I must confess to deep apprehensions about this plan.
First of all, the timing of such a drastic change is completely wrong. How can we afford to allow tens of thousands of NHS workers – more than a million of its 1.3million staff are women, a fifth of whom are of menopausal age – to ease their terms work during the unprecedented crisis facing health services?
It’s not just the record 7.1 million people on the waiting list, or the 30,000 poor souls enduring 12 hour waits in A&E, but the fact that, as Pritchard herself has admitted at a meeting last month with NHS chiefs, ‘the financial situation facing the NHS is a fucking nightmare’.
So in what kind of parallel universe would it make sense to choose this time to reduce or change the working hours of so many staff and allow some of them to work from home?
What critical care nurse or cancer specialist or paramedic or hospital cleaner could do their job from home?
Surely the primary aim of the NHS must be to meet the needs of patients rather than those of NHS staff.
To put it bluntly, should a woman’s hot flashes take priority over the pain of a middle-aged woman who has been waiting months or even years for a hip replacement? or another whose breast cancer treatment was delayed. . . Again? Because the inevitable consequence of Pritchard’s menopause plan would be that women would work less efficiently and patients would be served less efficiently.
Second, not content with hampering the NHS, Pritchard wants to inflict his menopause blueprint on other businesses. At the Confederation of Commercial Industry’s annual conference this week, she urged other businesses to adopt her plan.
Mariella Frostup attends the UK Gala screening of ‘Matilda The Musical’. She called plans to allow menopausal women to work from home and have more flexible models “common sense”.
The CBI represents 190,000 companies, mostly from the private sector. And I’d bet the bosses who listen to her might have a very different take on her prescription for female workers.
Tellingly, despite rising to the top of the public sector after joining the NHS Management Training Scheme straight from university and earning a salary of over £255,000, she never managed herself a private company.
This perhaps explains the sheer naivety of putting a woke menopause program before the needs of the NHS.
Having been a boss in the private sector, I have some experience of what makes a business profitable. And it’s not about offering a free pass or special conditions to a large part of your staff.
What company can afford this kind of special dispensation for its workers? How to plan for the future of your business when one-fifth of your permanent staff’s approach to work becomes unpredictable due to these flexible arrangements.
I accept that some women suffer terribly during menopause – from anxiety, brain fog, depression, hot flashes and panic attacks. I accept that some would benefit from a menopause passport. But they are fortunately in the minority.
Many of us go through some pretty nasty times, like me, but it wasn’t life changing or too debilitating.
But there is a third consequence of Mrs. Pritchard’s plan and, in my view, deeply pernicious.
The assumption that all middle-aged women fall into a terrible, inconsolable heap during “the change” is, in a cruel way, to write us off, to marginalize us.
Carolyn Harris, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Menopause, in parliament. She says we should all welcome the development
Moreover, it paints us as victims unable to defend ourselves in the workplace unless given preferential conditions.
And that, in turn, could lead to resentment, not only from men who don’t get free passes, but also from women who are below menopausal age.
The thing is, co-workers will have to pick up the slack and work harder when they find out in the short term that their valuable colleague is away for who knows how long.
It’s not good for labor relations and it’s not fair. We already have “period passes” in some workplaces, where women can apply for time off at this time of the month.
Sure, companies have long implemented generous maternity and now paternity leave, but do we women really want to add even more special waivers just because we were born with bellies?
The most worrying thing is that when it comes to promotion, no boss is going to top the list with someone who is there part-time and can choose their working hours.
It’s not just human nature, it’s business reality. Grafters are the people who make it to the top, and successful women have always been grafters in the workplace, not housewives.
‘Menopause passports’ describe female victims who are unable to get by in the workplace unless given preferential terms, writes Amanda Platell (stock image)
Which boils down to the fact that Pritchard’s plan, rather than improving the working lives of women – and it may be in the short term – will hurt their chances in the long run. Fans mainly talk to each other outside the workplace.
Workers who started at the bottom of the career ladder know how difficult it is to reach the top. We also know that we still far outnumber men in the top jobs – only nine of the FTSE 100 CEOs are women.
What makes us “thrive” at work is having opportunities, being treated equally with men and not receiving special allowances for our sex.
We must believe that talent and hard work will bring us respect and satisfaction in any job we choose, whether big or small; we don’t want to be treated like fragile creatures.
Far from emancipating middle-aged female staff, Pritchard’s plan would sideline us for a long period of our working lives and only complicate our success.
She is anti-feminist, anti-worker and will set back the cause of women by a generation. And the menopause passport? It would just give us a one-way ticket to career oblivion.