A “SIGNIFICANT proportion” of women either switch to lower-pressure jobs or leave an organisation altogether while dealing with the menopause, an event heard.

Dorset Chamber was praised by national figures for challenging “one of the last taboos” by discussing the impact of the menopause and how employers can help women going through it.

The chamber’s online event Let’s Talk About Menopause was attended by Shevaun Haviland, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, and by Labour shadow business minister Seema Malhotra.

Shevaun Haviland said the issue was “one of the last taboos” in the workplace. “No one’s ever talked about it in my career and it’s something that affects probably 50 per cent of our staff for maybe 10-15 years of their career,” she said.

“I’m really delighted that you all are dealing with something quite so progressive.”

Of the women polled at the event, 71 per cent said the menopause had had a negative impact on their ability to work, while 78 per cent said it was not discussed with line managers.

Dr Sarah Hattam, a GP and director of Concilio Health, told the event: “A third of the women in this country will have gone through the menopause and will be post-menopausal and we know that sadly a significant proportion either take a step back from their careers, they opt to go for a low pressure role, or they actually leave – they fall out of the back door of organisations because of menopausal symptoms and their impact and the fact that these go unrecognised and unsupported.

“But the big take home is that loss of our reproductivity does not mean loss of productivity. Menopausal women are a hugely valuable resource.”

She told how the effects of the menopause could include sweating and shivering more easily, disturbed sleep, “emotional and neural vulnerability” and “brain fog”. She urged employers to brush up on the facts, ask people how they were and make practical adjustments.

These adjustments could include providing open windows or fans, offering places to store spare clothes, providing spare uniforms or adjustments to uniform policy, and allowing people to work from home if they had suffered disturbed sleep.

The event heard Theresa Higgins, head of finance and administration at the chamber, talk about her own experience of working during menopause. Kevin Barnett, of sponsor Lester Aldridge, discussed the legal risks of discriminating against women going through menopause.

Shadow minister Seema Malhorta pledged to pass on the chamber’s experience to an all-party group on the menopause, adding: “I think what you’re doing is pretty trailblazing for a chamber.”

Chamber president Caron Khan said: “There are more menopausal women in the workplace than ever before and that’s why it’s so important that organisations really spread awareness of this, educate and support women in the workplace. We at Dorset Chamber are determined to create a culture in which we are talking about the menopause and I do hope that we can continue to talk about this subject and inspire other organisations to do the same. It’s definitely not a taboo subject at Dorset Chamber.”