'We have to keep fighting'

International Women's Day: Unite Equalities to host special webinar - Unite rep Monique Mosley tells UniteLive how she took the fight for equality to her workplace

Reading time: 7 min

International Women’s Day isn’t just about celebrating milestones in the fight for equality – because that fight is never done.

This year on International Women’s Day on March 8, Unite Equalities will host a special online event from 6.30pm to showcase the difference that Unite women activists have made in their workplaces, and how you can make a difference too.

The speakers at the online event, which you can register for here, will include Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, Unite assistant general secretary for equalities Diana Holland, as well as Unite reps from a range of sectors.

UniteLive caught up with one of the event’s speakers, Unite rep Monique Mosely, ahead of the International Women’s Day event, where she will speak about how she is lobbying to establish a menopause policy in her workplace, Greencore, a food manufacturer.

Monique first had the idea in the classroom, when she was studying for a health and safety qualification. As part of the end assessment for the qualification, students were asked to come up with a project for their workplace.

Greencore, like a huge majority of workplaces according to one survey, had no specific policy on menopause, so Monique thought this would be perfect for her project.

“I thought it was important to first approach the subject through a workforce survey, which I undertook and found that 64 per cent of the employees on site identify as female,” she explained. “This is a huge percentage that are or will eventually be affected by the menopause – and they’re being completely overlooked.”

Monique said it was also important to highlight that the menopause can affect a much wider range of women than many may think – including those affected by early menopause, by chemical menopause and trans women as well.

Monique’s survey also asked if women in their workplace were having any issues with the menopause in work, whether they felt supported and if not, what they thought the company could do to help. 

“I collected lots of feedback from the survey, and it was apparent that our workplace was crying out for a menopause policy – so I decided to use the survey not just for the qualification but to actually use it to demand a dedicated menopause policy.”

After Monique collected feedback from the survey, she received additional support from Unite officers to come up with a policy. 

“We worked together to do a bit more research and found that among the wider UK female workforce, 51 per cent have said they feel they can’t continue with work because of the lack of support during the menopause,” Monique noted.

“It’s a shocking figure. And most of this previous research looked at office workers, so you can imagine how much more widespread the problem could be at a food manufacturing site or other workplaces where manual labour dominates.”

Thanks to the work Monique has done with Unite’s support, Greencore has now committed to introducing a menopause policy in the future, and not just for the site where Monique works but also for all its sites across the UK.

Although the specific policy is still being decided by management, Monique has written her own policy in conjunction with Unite, one that she is using as a benchmark to continue to make demands from her employer.

As part of Monique’s policy, all employees in management positions should have to undertake training on the menopause. This, Monique says, will give management the tools and knowledge to know how to talk to employees about the menopause, what symptoms they might be struggling with and what adjustments they can make to help.

“I think training is absolutely vital because it helps break down the taboo so people will feel comfortable talking,” she explained.

Monique’s policy also demands that women be more closely considered by occupational health, and that the company does their very best to accommodate menopausal women who are struggling with symptoms, including through flexible working arrangements, being moved to a different role or other adjustments. Risk assessments should also be in place to ensure any accommodations made are appropriate.

Monique is also pushing for the company’s sick pay policy to be reviewed so that if women who are struggling with menopausal symptoms must take time off from work, they won’t be counted as absent and will receive sick pay accordingly.

Monique was especially enthusiastic about a ‘menopause café’ that’s she’s set up to run once a month with free drinks, where everyone is welcome. The initial cafés took place in the workplace, but after a recent round of redundancies, management has said they can no longer be hosted on- site. Undeterred, Monique plans to continue the social events off-site.

“We’ve had two menopause cafés so far and they’ve gone really well,” she explained. “We’ve encouraged partners of women who are being affected by menopause to come too because in some ways, it doesn’t only affect women. We’ve had partners come to talk about how they themselves are struggling to sleep because their wife, for example, is sweating all night. It’s been a really inclusive and positive experience.”

Monique encouraged all women members in Unite to fight for changes in their workplaces.

“If you see a need for something, you’ve got to go for it,” she said.  “Don’t be discouraged and stick to your own path. When I started talking about the need for a menopause policy in our workplace, so many people said ‘We don’t need it; it’s a bit far-fetched’. Don’t let that attitude put you off. If we want to be equal, we have to be tough; we have to keep fighting.”

Don’t forget to register for Unite Equalities’ online International Women’s Day webinar, which will take place on Wednesday, March 8, from 6.30pm to 8pm.

By Hajera Blagg