Menopause in policing

Stigma around menopause still exists and police officers and staff struggle at work when enduring the symptoms, a first of a kind survey has revealed.

The Police Federation of England and Wales’ (PFEW) Menopause Survey, initiated to help improve working conditions for PFEW’s federated members, soon caught the attention of others in policing when UNISON, the Police Superintendents’ Association, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), and the College of Policing got on board to help promote it to their members and staff.

The findings give insight into just how much the condition affects the working lives of police officers and staff.

A vast majority (76%) who had either gone through or were going through the menopause admitted they had found symptoms either moderately or extremely problematic at work, with more than eight out of ten agreeing tiredness and sleep disturbances were having a detrimental effect.

Another concerning finding revealed nearly half of respondents (44%) who found their symptoms extremely problematic have considered quitting the force as a result.

A number of respondents said they would be too embarrassed to discuss symptoms with their line manager and believe they would be treated differently in a negative way if they did disclose, as it could be seen as a sign of weakness.

Often respondents flagged their line manager was male and sometimes younger than them, which they also saw as an additional barrier to disclosure.

It is hoped the findings of the survey will be used to better represent and support anyone within the police workforce going through the menopause, as well as to inform future policy and guidance on the topic.

In North Wales, other key statistics found:

  • 52% of respondents in North Wales Police said that they had disclosed to their line manager that they were experiencing symptoms of the menopause. Respondents in North Wales Police were more likely to have told their line manager that they were experiencing symptoms of the menopause compared to the national sample, where 47% had disclosed to their line manager.

  • 12% of respondents in North Wales Police said that they had taken sickness absence because they were experiencing symptoms of the menopause.

  • 64% said that they had attended work despite feeling that they should have really taken sick leave because of their symptoms (i.e. menopause-related “presenteeism”).

  • 28% said that they had taken annual leave or rest days to take time off because they were experiencing symptoms of the menopause (i.e. menopause-related leaveism).

  • 80% of managers in North Wales Police who responded to the survey felt that they had a good level of awareness of the menopause. The proportion of managers in North Wales Police is higher than the national average, where 65% of managers said that they had a good level of awareness of the menopause.

  • 43% of managers in North Wales Police said that they would be very confident in their ability to support someone they line managed who was going through the menopause. Again, this was higher than the national average where 34% of respondents felt very confident in their ability to support someone who was going through the menopause.

The survey was launched on the 18 October 2018 and was open for six weeks. Overall, 6,315 useable responses were received, of which 59% of respondents were police officers and 40% were police staff (1% were in another role within the police service).

In England and Wales, around a third of female police officers are aged 45 or over, therefore the menopause presents an important occupational health issue that has the potential to affect thousands of people within the police service and should not be seen as a niche problem.