Menopause: how this can have a fundamental affect on retirement

27 May 2024
In our recent research, Tackling the gender pension and wealth gap , we looked at different areas which had an affect on women’s wealth and retirement. One of those areas was the menopause and I want to look at this in a little more detail here.

Why is this an issue?

Nearly all women will experience the menopause. For some it might not be as much of an issue. But through our research we found that over 70% of women experience symptoms such as anxiety, brain fog and fatigue. Over half of women we spoke to had been unable to go into work at some point.

According to a government policy paper on the menopause, women over 50 are the fastest growing segment of the workforce. So, there’ll be very few employers who don’t have employees in this category. As it can take many years for women to go through the perimenopause and then the menopause it’s important that employers offer the support required to help them continue to work.

86% of women in our survey said that going through the menopause made it harder to do their job. You might think that there is a lot more in the press about the menopause but that doesn’t mean that it is being openly spoken about in the workplace. We found that only 41% of women said that it was no longer a taboo subject which means that 59% think it still is taboo.

 

What does it mean for retirement?

Nearly half of women (49%) said that they had considered leaving work because of the menopause. If they stop working, this could mean a poorer retirement for them as well as recruitment challenges for employers, especially in industries where it’s difficult to recruit.

Normally, when someone’s in their 50s they’re at the peak of their earnings potential. They may have paid off their mortgage and could be thinking about paying more into savings or their pension to make sure they’ll have a certain level of income in retirement. But if they feel that their only option is to leave work, and therefore stop contributing to their pension, they might not achieve the financial security in retirement that they’d planned.

Stopping work or reducing hours can have a fundamental financial impact. Let’s consider a scenario where a 50 year old woman is earning £40,000, with a pension pot of £100,00 and works full time until state pension age at 67. Assuming wage growth of 2.5%, monthly contributions of 10% and investment growth (not including charges) of 5% her pension savings could be worth £355,510 at age 67.

If she reduced her working hours by 50%, her pension savings at age 67 would be £292,356 – a reduction of £63,154. If she stopped working altogether they’d be £229,202 –126,308 less than if she’d continued working full time. The retirement that she’d planned might have been based on working full time and this could mean a readjustment of that plan. But can employers help to give employees a better retirement by helping them to carry on working?

 

What can employers do?

Many people, women as well as men, don’t realise the physical and mental effects of the menopause until they are affected by it. Encouraging people to talk more openly about the menopause and offering training sessions for managers, so that they understand how best to support their staff, can help with this.

Having a supportive environment is vital. In fact, 82% of our respondents said that they’d be more likely to stay with an employer who supported them through the menopause. This could also mean starting health programmes that specifically target women. Even if they haven’t started going through the menopause yet, understanding what might happen in the future and the help available can be very useful. Offering access to female managers is crucial too. 77% of women in our research said that they’d talk to a female line manager about the menopause but only 35% said they’d talk to a male line manager.

Offering flexibility at work could also help. This could mean flexible working hours to deal with the lack of sleep, remote working, the ability to work shorter hours. As could providing the right type of equipment such as fans which could help with symptoms such as hot flushes. Promoting any external support like employee assistance programmes is also important.

It’s essential we retain this segment of the workforce to help women have a better future and a retirement that’s closer to their male counterparts. Gradually, we’re heading in the right direction.

Read the full report Tackling the gender pension and wealth gap (PDF).