Women should be ‘shaming firms’ that ignore female health concerns, says MP

Women should be “shaming companies” that do not listen to their concerns about female health, a Labour MP has said.

Carolyn Harris, MP for Swansea East, said women in the workplace should “find their voice” when it comes to pushing for inclusivity at work as she spoke at the women in work summit in London on Tuesday.

Ms Harris was joined by the shadow women and equalities secretary, Anneliese Dodds, and Women and Equalities Committee chair Caroline Nokes to discuss how menopause impacts women in the workplace.

Asked what women can say to firms that are “meno-washing” or ignoring it altogether, Ms Harris said: “They can find their voice.

General Election 2017 declaration
Carolyn Harris said companies that do not listen to women should be shamed (Ben Birchall/PA)

“It really frustrates me that so many women are afraid to ask or I don’t know what the reaction should be.

“We should be shaming companies who are actually not prepared to listen to what women have to say. It’s 2023 – we’ve been around for a long time, we’re 51% of the population.

“We are strong, wonderful individuals and it’s our responsibility to every generation of women behind us to ensure we have our voice and we are heard.”

Her comments were echoed by Ms Nokes, who also criticised the Government over its lack of action, saying the Women and Equalities Committee has been calling for flexible working to be a “day one right” for years.

The Tory MP said: “We have made a raft of recommendations around menopause protections which I can not pretend that I wasn’t profoundly disappointed by the response to them.”

On concerns about not being taken seriously, she said: “It gives me huge frustration because we are not a minority, we are 51% of the population, we are also – as women over 50 – the biggest growing demographic in the workplace.

“It just strikes me that any party that chooses to continually ignore 51% is cutting its own nose off to spite its face.”

However, Ms Nokes said that she has seen “glimmers of hope”.

The MP said the Government’s menopause employment champion, Helen Tomlinson, has supported some of the recommendations that the Government rejected and small businesses have been vocal about looking for ways to support women in their late 40s and older.

She said: “We have made progress, there’s no doubt about that. The taboos are slowly coming down.”

“But there’s still so much more to go and I always look at my ministerial colleagues and say stop dismissing us as being this permanent thorn in our side.”

At the summit, Ms Dodds announced that a Labour government would publish guidance for small businesses to support women going through menopause.

She said: “Ultimately if we do not take action, we are going to be holding our economy back, we’re going to be preventing all of that entrepreneurial talent and creativity from actually supporting our economy.”

On supporting older women to stay in work after thousands left during the pandemic, she added: “We are clearly not getting this right.”

“We know what we need to do. It’s not about lacking evidence. It’s about delivery,” she said.

Labour said the new guidance would advise small firms on ways to help their employees, such as offering alterations to their uniform, temperature-controlled areas and flexible working.

It follows the party’s announcement in March that large companies would be required to publish and implement a “menopause action plan” that sets out how they are supporting menopausal women.

The policy would help support the one in 10 women who have left their jobs and the 14% who have reduced their hours because of menopausal symptoms to remain economically active, according to the party.

PA has contacted the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for comment.