Natalie has worked for an iconic UK retail brand for nearly two decades, an organisation that is clear in its mission to “inspire and enable our colleagues”. When she started experiencing brain fog and memory issues as part of her menopause, she lost confidence in her abilities at work, which escalated into increased anxiety about her performance.
“I have nearly 18 years of service and I had no plans to leave the business. I may be asked to leave or choose to leave, and that is quite frankly, terrifying.”
After seeking help from her GP for her menopausal symptoms and starting HRT, Natalie sought support through her employer’s Occupational Health department to discuss how her symptoms were impacting her work and explore whether some reasonable adjustments could be made. Natalie was hopeful as she knew her employer had a menopause policy and her initial meetings were constructive.
The OH report stated:
“Based on the information obtained during the assessment today, in my opinion, Mrs Jones is fit to carry out all aspects of her job at present. However, due to the severity of her symptoms, I would recommend consideration is given to reduced workload, performance indicators, pace, target expectation and avoiding additional pressures to help with her reduced concentration, focus and memory.”
Natalie’s hope was short-lived as those reasonable adjustments proved hard to come by. Her line manager gave her feedback that she was now judged as an ‘inconsistent performer’ and she needed to ‘get back on track’.
“This dip in performance isn't normal for me. I have a long history of strong performance and have always been regarded as a role model. Unfortunately, my line manager and her manager do not seem to be accepting my symptoms as a reason for any change in my ability to work.”
“I think my leadership team’s view is my symptoms are not as severe as I am reporting. My manager’s best friend was apparently back to normal as soon as she started on HRT. I am genuinely happy for this woman, but my experience isn’t the same.”
Unfortunately, Natalie’s situation at work deteriorated further and she eventually found it intolerable. She was signed off sick by her GP and felt she had to raise a formal grievance based on the lack of support she was shown. Natalie hoped the grievance would show her organisation that menopause is clearly a gap in their leadership training and that their menopause policy is "on paper" only in her area of the business.
Natalie gives an update:
“ I had my grievance hearing last week. I felt listened to, but I don’t know the outcome yet. I have asked for support to find a different role in the business and have said that I cannot return to that team. I have ‘broken rank’ which just doesn’t happen. I have spent my life as a people pleaser and the process of raising a grievance is so far out of my comfort zone. I’m not sure if I’ll end up choosing to leave or be asked to leave. What kind of a choice is that? ”