Future Super has become one of the first companies in Australia to introduce a paid menopause policy in the workplace.
The policy aims to reduce the need for women to use their personal leave when they are suffering severe menopause or menstrual issues.
Chief operating officer Leigh Dunlop told 6PR: “We thought it was unfair that our staff had to dip into their personal leave in order to manage the impact of their periods or menopause, which is something that happens regularly.”
The company's policy allows employees to take up to six days of paid leave per year to manage their symptoms.
“This is on top of any personal or sick leave entitlements,” Dunlop said.
Future Super said it hopes other businesses will implement similar policies to champion gender equality.
Future Super CEO Kirstin Hunter (above) recently noted that gender equality was top of mind for the company in all its policies.
"We began by analyzing our own gender pay data (both overall and by seniority), setting board-level targets, and sharing our progress against these targets with our team," she said.
"This approach has allowed us to transform our business: in four years we've improved our gender representation across the team (from 30% to parity) and in the leadership team (from 20% to parity), while also reducing our gender pay gap from ~25% to within our target of +/- 5%.
"But we didn't stop there. We also reflected on the trends in our own industry, where women retire with 47% less super than men. The reasons for this retirement gap are known: women are less likely to make the senior ranks, are more likely to take time off for caring duties, and more likely to return part-time. As a small business we may not be able to fix the system, but what can we do to make sure that our own staff don't suffer that same fate?
"We introduced three policies to address these drivers of inequality. Today at Future Super, all staff earning less than $80k are paid a higher rate of superannuation, all staff taking time out of work for parental leave are paid super contributions for up to 12 months, and all staff who are working part-time due to caring responsibilities are paid super at the full time rate."
Menopause a "silent career killer"
In 2018, The Conversation published an article discussing what workplaces can do about making menopause less difficult for working women.
The author, Professor Ruth McPhail, Head of Department of Employment Relations & Human Resources, Griffith University said: "More and more Australian women are facing a silent career killer. It can increase their dissatisfaction with work, their absenteeism and their intention to quit their jobs. Menopause is one of the last great taboo subjects in the workplace but its impacts are great – and it’s time we talked about it."
She added: "While workplaces in Australia have slowly incorporated the needs of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers into their cultures, those at the other end of the journey are neither acknowledged nor understood."
The concept of paid menopause leave isn't new. In 2019, the UK Labour Party proposed that if it was elected it would require large employers with over 250 employees to:
- Provide training for line managers to be aware of how the menopause can affect working women and understand what adjustments may be necessary to support them;
- Provide flexible working policies that cater for women experiencing the menopause;
- Ensure absence procedures are flexible to accommodate menopause as a long-term fluctuating health condition;
- Carry out risk assessments to consider the specific needs of menopausal women and ensure that their working environment will not make their symptoms worse.
It also said adjustments that employers could be required to make could include the provision of ventilation facilities, access to cold water and giving women flexible working hours if their sleep pattern is disturbed.
Dawn Butler, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, said: “This bold policy will support women experiencing the symptoms of menopause in the workplace. Together we must end the stigma and ensure that no woman is put at a disadvantage, from menstruation to menopause."
Sadly, however, Labour lost the election.